Paracetamol in pregnancy could affect speech development


If women take acetaminophen in pregnancy, it may affect their speech development – but only in girls. Researchers from Karlstad University in Sweden and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, found this in an observational study published in European Psychiatry (2017, doi: 10.1016 / j.eurpsy.2017.10.007). However, the results would not be enough to restrict or eliminate the recommendation of paracetamol as the analgesic of choice during pregnancy, according to the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM).

The study is based on an analysis of more than 700 pregnant women who have participated in the SELMA (Swedish Environmental Longitudinal, Mother and Child, Asthma and Allergy) study. Thus, at 30 months after birth, significantly more girls have a speech delay whose mothers took paracetamol during pregnancy – compared to girls whose mothers did not take the drug. In the entire study collective, a total of 64 children had a vocabulary of less than 50 words.

A significant effect was found only in the mothers group who took the most paracetamol. They reported having taken more than 6 tablets in the 1st trimester. Her daughters had a nearly 6-fold increased risk of having a speech delay than daughters whose mothers did not take acetaminophen.

Study with weaknesses It remains uncertain whether 6 tablets were taken on one day or per week. However, this would have a “biological effect of considerable importance,” says the senior physician and head of the Counseling Center for Reproductive Toxicology at the University Women’s Hospital Ulm, Wolfgang E. Paulus to concerns. Also, the urine test can give only a short-term impression due to the half-life of paracetamol of 2 to 3 hours, the extraordinary member of the drug commission of the German medical profession continues. The instruments of detecting a paracetamol application appear to him relatively crude.

“The postulated paracetamol-induced hormonal imbalances affecting speech development are by no means proven,” says the head of the Pharmacovigilance and Counseling Center for Embryo Toxicology. In addition, previous findings argue that the sensitive phase for moderate language development is likely to be later in the pregnancy. Despite various methodological limitations, the study should once again be thought-provoking, Paul says: “Twenty years ago paracetamol was considered to be completely safe in pregnancy.

It was only the large Scandinavian registry that suggested, based on thousands of pregnant women, that the drug could affect neurological development. ” Paracetamol could affect child development In some other studies, the use of paracetamol in pregnancy has been associated with increased risks of asthma, attention deficit syndrome (ADHD) and behavioral problems in children, and more recently rodent developmental disorders of rodents.

However, these relationships are controversial due to the lack of important clinical data – again based on the fact that pregnant women are usually excluded from participating in clinical trials.


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