Could Prenatal Tylenol Use Affect Autism Spectrum Disorder?

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Is there such a thing as a completely safe form of medicine? The short answer is no. Even if a medication seems innocuous, every medicine can potentially produce side effects, especially when a patient is experiencing a major health event like a pregnancy. The hope is that that the potential benefits of the medicine outweigh the negatives. Recent medical research, however, has indicated that one of the most common medicines taken during pregnancy could produce a number of harmful side effects to the children, which may make doctors change how they treat women during pregnancy.

According to findings published in a study for the International Journal of Epidemiology, the study found that use of paracetamol, otherwise known as acetaminophen with the most famous brand name being Tylenol, caused some concern as researchers found that there was a thirty percent increased risk of a child being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The study included 2644 mother and child pairs, and it indicated that males may be more likely to be affected by the use of paracetamol. Here is what one of the co-authors of the study said:

“Paracetamol could be harmful to neurodevelopment for several reasons. First of all, it relieves pain by acting on cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Since these receptors normally help determine how neurons mature and connect with one another, paracetamol could alter these important processes. It can also affect the development of the immune system, or be directly toxic to some fetuses that may not have the same capacity as an adult to metabolize this drug, or by creating oxidative stress.”

So in regard to medication and how it can influence possible symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, one might have to wonder how medicine may also influence potential chronic conditions. CMRSI has made it a point to study risk factors for developing chronic conditions and whether common preventative measures like vaccines could influence increases in autism spectrum disorder diagnoses. The combined risk of multiple vaccines given during pregnancy and early in life while taking such common medications such as acetaminophen is currently unknown, and should be a priority for researchers looking to unravel the causal factors underlying the autism and chronic illness epidemics.

CMSRI is seeking funding from the public and from foundations and philanthropists to conduct studies important to child health and well-being. Please visit www.CMSRI.org to help expedite the answers parents need to protect their children’s health.