Tylenol’s Safe for Moms-to-Be, but Researchers Worry About Effects on Baby

Photo: Shutterstock / The Bump
Photo: Shutterstock / The Bump

According to the results from a new study on medicine, researchers found that though Tylenol is safe for mom-to-be to use, the after-the-fact effects on baby’s development include poorer language skills and behavioral issues. The study, led by Ragnhild Eek Brandlistuen from the School of Pharmacy at the University of Oslo in Norway, included 48,000 Norwegian children whose moms participated in a survey that examined their medication use at 17 weeks and 30 weeks pregnant. The women were again surveyed 30 weeks after giving birth and again three years later and the results were published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Based on the responses, researchers were able to conclude that four percent of women took Tylenol on at least 28 different occasions during their pregnancies. As a result, their children had poorer motor skills, started walking later, were poor communicators and also had language and behavioral problems.

But here’s what’s incredibly interesting: The most active ingredient in Tylenol is acetaminophen and because of this, Tylenol has been extensively studied in relation to premature birth and miscarriage, with no connections found. But when it was compared to Ibuprofen, a pain-relief alternative without acetaminophen, researchers found no developmental issues related to Ibuprofen use. Brandlistuen said that, “Long-term use of (acetaminophen) increased the risk of behavior problems by 70 percent at age three.”

Following the release of the study, Tylenol’s manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson, issued the following statement to Reuter’s Health: “Tylenol has an exceptional safety profile. As the authors note in the study, there are no prospective, randomized controlled studies demonstrating a causal link between acetaminophen use during pregnancy and adverse effects on child development. We always recommend that consumers carefully read and follow label instructions when using any over the counter medication. In addition, our label notes if pregnant or breast-feeding, ask a health professional before use. Consumers who have medical concerns or questions about acetaminophen should contact their health care professional.”

The next steps are simple: It’s time for more research. Brandlistuen says, “Since this is the only study to show this, there is a need for further research to confirm or refute these results before too many implications are made.”

Does this study change your mind about taking Tylenol in pregnancy?

Plus, more from The Bump:

What Medications Are Safe to Take During Pregnancy?

Headache Relief Without Medication?

Pregnancy Safety 101