A study by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal), prepared with data from more than 70,000 European children, has linked the consumption of paracetamol during pregnancy with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) of minors.
The research, published this Friday by the European Journal of Epidemiology, and which has been led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), a center promoted by the La Caixa Foundation, has analyzed 73,881 girls and boys from six European cohorts – trial groups – for which data are available on their prenatal or postnatal paracetamol exposure and at least one outcome on symptoms of ASD or ADHD.
Depending on the cohort, between 14% and 56% of the mothers of these children reported that they had taken paracetamol while they were pregnant.
The results reveal that children who had been exposed to paracetamol before birth showed a increased likelihood of later developing symptoms of autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit disorders than those not exposed (19% and 21% more, respectively).
“Only when necessary”
“Our data is consistent with what previous work indicated. Likewise, we see that prenatal exposure to paracetamol affects boys and girls in a similar way, since we practically did not observe differences, “explains ISGlobal researcher Sílvia Alemany, first author of the study.
For his part, Jordi Sunyer, also a researcher at ISGlobal, acknowledges that the study results address part of the weaknesses of the previous meta-analyzes.
“Taking into account all the evidence on the use of paracetamol and neurodevelopment, we agree with the recommendations that indicate that, although paracetamol should not be suppressed in pregnant women or in childhood, it should be used only when necessary “, Sunyer points out.
As reported by ISGlobal in a statement, it is estimated that between 46% and 56% of pregnant women in developed countries resort to paracetamol at some point in their pregnancy, which is considered the safest analgesic and antipyretic in that period and in childhood.
However, some studies have begun to link prenatal exposure to paracetamol with a poorer cognitive performance, more behavior problems, ASD and ADHD symptoms.
According to Alemany, “these are studies criticized for their heterogeneity, so that on this occasion a effort to harmonize the way symptoms have been assessed or defined of ADHD and ASD, as well as what it means to be exposed to paracetamol “.
“The sample is large and jointly analyzes cohorts from different European countries (United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece and Spain). In all the cohorts studied, the criterion has been the same, so that we have reduced the heterogeneity of criteria from which previous studies suffered “, the researcher emphasized.
The study also looked at the postnatal infant exposure to paracetamol, without in this case an association between paracetamol taken in childhood and the symptoms of ASD was observed.
Despite this, ISGlobal scientists recommend further research, given the heterogeneity of exposure in the various cohorts studied, which ranged from 6% to 92.8%.
The six cohorts on which the study is based are: Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC); DNBC; Gen and Environment: a Prospective Study on Children in Italy (GASPII); Generation R Study INMA (including the four subcohorts); Maternal-Infant Cohort of Crete (RHEA).