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Tylenol in pregnancy

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Among the many safety concerns about medication use during pregnancy, health experts have long disagreed about acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) as a fever and/or pain reducer. Several past studies have shown potential links between acetaminophen use and neurodevelopmental concerns, such as language delays, autism, and ADHD. But one new study is squashing those worries, with researchers finding no substantive evidence after analyzing decades worth of data.

The study, published in the journal JAMA on Tuesday, April 9, was led by scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and Drexel University. Researchers analyzed medical data from about 2.5 million children born in Sweden between 1995 and 2019—from the prenatal period and beyond—finding no concrete link between acetaminophen use during pregnancy and developmental concerns.

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Though the statistical model did find a “marginally increased risk” of autism, ADHD, and other intellectual disabilities, researchers also conducted a sibling analysis, looking at data from pairs of full biological siblings (i.e., those with the same parents) and found no real risk. The researchers note that sibling analyses are important because siblings share both genetic and environmental factors, which can help eliminate variables that might skew data in a clinical trial.

The study’s extensive time frame, large number of participants, and sibling analyses all help strengthen the results, refuting recent studies linking acetaminophen use during pregnancy to an increased risk of ADHD, childhood behavioral problems, language delays, and autism spectrum disorder. The findings also corroborate the stances shared by the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency, both of which call the OTC med low-risk for pregnant people.

That said, you should always work with your doctor to treat aches and pains during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, as they can help ease your worries and make you feel comfortable. But for those who have relied on Tylenol in lieu of other painkillers and fever reducers, it’s nice to know that they are more than likely perfectly safe both for mom and baby… especially when it feels like there’s an ever-growing laundry list of things expecting mamas have to be on high alert about. Seems like you can rest easy on this one, which is great news.

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