Prenatal Tylenol Use Linked to ADHD in Baby

More often than not, a woman’s first prenatal visit comes with a lot of dos and don’ts. What to eat. What not to eat. When to exercise. How to exercise. And most importantly, which over-the-counter medications are safe to take in the event of minor ailments like an upset stomach or a headache.

Until recently, that list banned ibuprofen but approved acetaminophen (the main ingredient in Tylenol) for reducing fevers, and relieving minor aches and pains.

But a new study may have health experts thinking twice about that list as it found that the children of women who took Tylenol during pregnancy were 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – or ADHD- than children of mothers who did not.

The likelihood of a child developing ADHD increased the most – by 63 percent – when the acetaminophen was taken during the last two trimesters of pregnancy. When it was used in the third trimester alone, researchers found an increased in ADHD of about 28 percent. The risk was smallest – about nine percent – when the pregnant woman only used the medication during her first trimester of pregnancy.

The study is interesting not just for its findings, but for its methodology. Researchers could have talked to the mothers of children who had been diagnosed with ADHD to determine whether or not they used Tylenol during pregnancy. But the potential for bias in memory recall was too great. Instead, the researchers followed more than 64,000 Danish mothers and their children over a period of about 15 years. They collected information on the mothers’ use of acetaminophen before their children were born and long before they knew that their future children would be diagnosed with ADHD. In this way, they were able to draw a stronger connection between the cause and effect.

But health experts warn that these are still two potentially unrelated events. Now that researchers know that a link is possible, they need to figure out why it would exist.

They also warn that an unchecked fever during pregnancy could be more harmful to the developing fetus than the possibility of the future development of ADHD.

Bottom line: It’s best to steer clear of any unnecessary medication during pregnancy. But if you develop a fever, talk to your doctor before you hit the medicine cabinet.

Article by Jenn Savedge



Magdalena J.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you!

thomas lartin
thomas lartin4 years ago

Very interesting in the study was how much of this drug these people were actually taking, they were taking an amount that was obviously not safe. If someone takes one I'm sure they would be fine, but to be safe I would try to take nothing at all when pregnant.

Sue H.
Sue H5 years ago

"But the health experts warn that these are still two potentially unrelated." Talk to your doctor about this study if you are pregnant.

JL A5 years ago

oh my

Barb Hansen
Ba H5 years ago

no mention of how much acetaminophen was used. i'm getting tired of all the useless studies Care2 is posting.

Amanda M.
Amanda M5 years ago

I wish I'd known that ibuprofen was safe to use during pregnancy, because that is literally the ONLY painkiller out there that actually WORKS for me! I've been immune to Tylenol since I was TWELVE, and since that was the only thing I was allowed to use for headache and fever relief when I was pregnant, you can image how fun headaches were! I could take that crap until I rattle, and the only thing it'll do to me is make my liver hiccup!

Now they tell us that there's an ADHD link too? Well, then why is it that neither one of my kids has ADHD? Sheesh. It's getting to where a pregnant woman isn't allowed to do ANYTHING anymore because it could be harmful to her pregnancy!

Two words to the Medicine/Food Police: BUGGER OFF!!!!

Cathleen K.
Cathleen K5 years ago

Tylenol is a lousy drug. It doesn't work as well as aspirin to control pain or break fevers. Unless you have a bleeding disorder, use aspirin.

Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez5 years ago


Sean Goldberg
Sean Bergen5 years ago

And after you talk to your doctor, do your own research too!

Luna s
luna starr5 years ago

Barbara L hit it on the head