Paracetamol risk in pregnancy

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

Paracetamol is one of the most commonly used pain medications, and it is considered safe in pregnancy. However, experiments done on animals have shown its use may negatively affect neurodevelopment and cognitive function in offspring. It can also disrupt the brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). Human research has shown an increased risk of movement disorders and ADHD-type behaviour in children whose mothers took the drug while pregnant.

A study published in 2016 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics looked at 7796 mothers and their use of paracetamol while pregnant. The findings revealed that indeed paracetamol use may increase the risk of multiple behavioural difficulties in their children.

Taking the drug in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy was significantly associated with increased risk of conduct problems and hyperactivity symptoms in children. The risks were highest when paracetamol was taken in the third trimester. Those children experienced more emotional symptoms and higher total behavioural difficulty.

This is a troubling finding because paracetamol is one of the safest drugs we have, when used according to directions. In most circumstances, aspirin and ibuprofen are not recommended during pregnancy. Some women with blood clotting disorders are given low dose aspirin while pregnant and in them the benefits outweigh the risks. It is important to remember that every drug has the potential to cause harm, particularly when used during pregnancy.

Sometimes medication is absolutely necessary and I don’t want to cause stress or anxiety for our readers. Paracetamol is only one risk factor for ADHD; it’s not the only one. There may be other natural remedies that address pain without the need for a pain killer. These include:

  • Try to get adequate rest while pregnant. Your body is under stress and your immune system is not able to fight infections as well. You may need to cut down your regular workload rather than pushing past the point of fatigue.
  • Wash your hands regularly throughout the day, especially after using public transport, handling money or visiting the supermarket.
  • Drink lots of water throughout the day to keep your body well hydrated and reduce the risk of headaches. Magnesium may relieve headache symptoms.
  • Getting into a cool bath is an old fashioned remedy for fever and may work if the fever is mild.
  • Garlic and onion are natural infection-fighting remedies that may help prevent you catching an infection.
  • Vitamin D helps strengthen your immune system against infections. Try getting safe and regular sunshine to help your body produce enough of this important vitamin.
  • Make sleep a priority. Your body needs lots of rest. You are growing an entire human.
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