Paracetamol in pregnancy increases risk of autism in boys
Taking paracetamol in pregnancy raises the risk of autism spectrum symptoms in male offspring, according to Spanish research.
The same study also found a link between paracetamol and ADHD in both genders.
Data from 2644 mother-child pairs showed a 30% increase in the risk of some attention deficit functions and an increase in 2 clinical symptoms of autism spectrum symptoms in boys.
Published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the findings are important given that paracetamol is universally used in pregnancy.
While the researchers could not determine the exact doses taken by the mothers, they say that 43% of children assessed at age one and 41% assessed at age 5 were exposed to any paracetamol at some point during the first 32 weeks of pregnancy.
When assessed at age 5, exposed children were at higher risk of hyperactivity or impulsivity symptoms. Persistently exposed children in particular showed poorer performance on a computerised test measuring inattention, impulsivity and visual speed processing.
Boys also showed more autism spectrum symptoms when persistently exposed to paracetamol, the researchers report.
“Although we measured symptoms and not diagnoses, an increase in the number of symptoms that a child has, can affect him or her, even if they are not severe enough to warrant a clinical diagnosis of a neurodevelopmental disorder,” says lead author, Dr Claudia Avella-Garcia from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona.
The study concludes that the widespread exposure of infants to paracetamol during pregnancy could increase the number of children with ADHD or autism spectrum symptoms. However, the authors stress more research is needed to determine precise dosage measurements.