ADD and Acetaminophen Use in Pregnancy

ADD and Acetaminophen Use in Pregnancy
It is strongly suspected, but not proven, that the development of Attention Deficit Disorder in children involves both nature and nurture. There is a strong genetic component for ADD. It runs in families. British researchers have noted different copy number variants on chromosome 16 for people with diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder. The environment also plays a role. Many substances are implicated in the development of ADD. Researchers have found that lead, cigarette smoke, a plethora of chemicals, and endocrine disrupters are each believed to be a possible contributing factor for a child to develop Attention Deficit Disorder. Now a large study, reported in the online version of JAMA Pediatrics (The Journal of the American Medical Association), points the spotlight on acetaminophen, a widely used analgesic. In particular, the study was looking at a possible link between a child's development of Attention Deficit Disorder and the use of acetaminophen by the mother during pregnancy.

Denmark has a study cohort of over 64,000 women and children, and the group is used to study pregnancy and children. The researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health looked at records from the cohort that was enrolled from 1996 to 2002 to see if there might be a link between the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy and chances of children developing Attention Deficit Disorder or hyperkinetic disorder. Briefly, here is what they found:
*If a mother used acetaminophen during pregnancy, her child had a higher risk of developing ADD. The risk was between 13 percent and 37 percent.
*When a mother took acetaminophen into the second and third trimesters, there was more risk associated with developing ADD.
*That risk soared to 50 percent or more when acetaminophen was used for more than 20 weeks during the pregnancy..

Has the increase in diagnosed cases of Attention Deficit Disorder been because of better education and diagnosis? These researchers at UCLA and the University of Aarhus in Denmark doubted that hypothesis. They were searching for an environmental insult that could affect brain development in a fetus. It's too early to say whether they found their cause, since more research needs to be conducted to verify or refute these findings. However, at this stage of the research, a prudent person might give strong consideration to limiting or eliminating acetaminophen from the list of medicines that are recommended for pregnant women.

For more information about the research, please check out the works cited in the resources section of this article.


University of California - Los Angeles. (2014, February 25). Use of acetaminophen during pregnancy linked to ADHD in children, researchers say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 27, 2014 from

Journal Reference:
Zeyan Liew, Beate Ritz, Cristina Rebordosa, Pei-Chen Lee, Jørn Olsen.Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy, Behavioral Problems, and Hyperkinetic Disorders. JAMA Pediatrics, 2014; DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4914

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