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Report: Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Might Lead To Behavioral Problem

Update Date: Aug 18, 2016 02:22 PM EDT

Contrary to the popular belief, a common over the counter medication can be the cause of behavioral issues for children. According to a research, children who were exposed to drugs in the prenatal stage might develop the behavioral issue.

Prenatal exposure to the medication was associated with a higher risk of having children who exhibit emotional or behavioral symptoms, according to a study published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics.

For mothers who took acetaminophen while being pregnant, children were more likely to be hyperactive, according to a study conducted by the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

Notably, acetaminophen is a common pain reliever found in common brands such as Tylenol. Expectant mothers have been advised to consume the drug during pregnancy mentioning it was safe to do so.

Dr. Evie Stergiakouli, lead author of the study and a researcher in genetic epidemiology and statistical genetics at the University of Bristol, said this study aimed to control for other variables -- such as genetic, familial or social factors -- so that researchers could get a better understanding of whether there's a link between the drug and behavioral conditions, reported ABC News.

"We have evidence that acetaminophen use during pregnancy has a biological mechanism of action in regard to increasing behavioral issues during childhood," she said.

Fortunately, the effect overall is relatively small and Stergiakouli mentioned that expectant mothers should not panic if they have been taking the medicine. She also mentioned that avoiding the medicine, especially when the woman has a fever can be more fatal.

Despite the increased risk for women taking the drug, the total risk of developing behavioral issues overall remained small, with 5 percent of children studied being affected by these behavioral issues. Additionally, it does not mean that expectant mothers should stop taking the medicine.

"Women should still continue to use acetaminophen as required according to their physician because the risk of not treating fever or pain can be much higher than the risk of behavioral issues in offspring," she explained. For example, fever during pregnancy can increase the risk of pre-term labor if left untreated. 

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a national trade association representing the leading manufacturers and marketers of over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements, said that more study was needed into this area of research.

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