July 23, 2024

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Pregnancy Acetaminophen Use Linked to Child Language Delay

Pregnancy Acetaminophen Use Linked to Child Language Delay

Pregnancy Acetaminophen Use Linked to Child Language Delay

Research suggests a link between the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy and delayed language development in children.

Acetaminophen is considered the safest over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer during pregnancy. Studies indicate that 50%-65% of women in North America and Europe use acetaminophen during pregnancy. Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign conducted a new study exploring the relationship between acetaminophen use during pregnancy and early childhood language scores. The study found an association between acetaminophen use and delayed language development.

Pregnancy Acetaminophen Use Linked to Child Language Delay

The findings were published in the journal “Pediatric Research.”

Early research had previously linked acetaminophen use during pregnancy to poorer communication skills in children. Megan Woodbury, the lead researcher and a graduate student, along with Susan Schantz, a comparative biosciences professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, led this study. The research is part of the Illinois Kids Development Study, which investigates how environmental exposures during pregnancy and childhood impact child development. Schantz is the chief researcher for IKIDS, and Woodbury is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Northeastern University in Boston.

Woodbury stated, “Previous studies asked pregnant women about acetaminophen use at most every three months. But in IKIDS, we spoke with participants every four to six weeks during pregnancy and within 24 hours of the child’s birth, so we had six time points during pregnancy.”

Language analysis involved 298 two-year-old children who were tracked prenatally, with 254 returning for further study at age 3.

For the two-year-olds, researchers used the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory, which required parents to report their child’s vocabulary, language complexity, and the average length of the child’s three longest utterances.

Schantz explained, “We wanted to collect data at this age because it’s a period known as the ‘vocabulary explosion,’ where children are adding words to their vocabulary every day.”

The vocabulary test required parents to select words from a list of 680 that their child had used.

Parents were reassessed when their children turned 3, comparing their language skills to peers.

The analysis linked mid-to-late pregnancy acetaminophen use with a mild but significant delay in early language development.

Woodbury said, “We found that increased acetaminophen use—especially in late pregnancy—was associated with a decrease in vocabulary and a shorter average length of utterances at age two.”

Schantz added, “By age three, using more acetaminophen in late pregnancy was associated with parents perceiving their child’s language abilities as below those of their peers. This effect was primarily seen in boys.”

The most notable discovery was that, during the third month of pregnancy, each use of acetaminophen was associated with a nearly two-word decrease in the vocabulary of two-year-old children.

Woodbury explained, “This suggests that if pregnant women take acetaminophen 13 times in the third month of pregnancy, their children may express 26 fewer words than their peers at age 2.”

Schantz mentioned that fetal brain development occurs throughout the entire pregnancy, but the second and third trimesters are particularly crucial.

She said, “Hearing starts to develop in mid-pregnancy, but the development of language has already begun in the late pregnancy before birth.”

Woodbury added, “People believe acetaminophen works through the endocannabinoid system, which is crucial for fetal development.”

Researchers noted that these findings need validation in larger studies. Until then, there’s no need for pregnant women to fear taking acetaminophen for fever or severe pain and discomfort. Serious conditions like high fever can be dangerous, and the use of acetaminophen may be helpful.

Schantz emphasized, “When people really need it, they don’t have other choices.” She added, “But perhaps people should be more cautious when using this medication for mild pain relief during pregnancy.”

This research received support from the Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Institutes of Health’s Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes program.

Pregnancy Acetaminophen Use Linked to Child Language Delay

(source:internet, reference only)

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