Is It Safe To Take Acetaminophen In Pregnancy?
Among the over-the-counter (OTC) medications used during pregnancy, acetaminophen is perhaps the most common one. Studies found that acetaminophen is safe for use during pregnancy if taken in the right dosage. About 40 – 60% of the pregnant population uses this medicine at some point during their pregnancy, for relief from fever and headache (1).
MomJunction tells you about the safe dosage and the possible side effects of acetaminophen during pregnancy.
What Is Acetaminophen?
Acetaminophen, commonly known as paracetamol, is an OTC medicine sold under the brand name Tylenol. It comes under FDA category B and is generally prescribed for relief from fever and pain during pregnancy (2).
During the early stages of pregnancy, a temperature of 101 °F (38.3 °C) can pose risks to the baby (3). And acetaminophen is believed to be the safest antipyretic and analgesic medicine for treating fever in pregnant women and is recommended for short-term use.
Note: Do not take more than the recommended dosage of acetaminophen.
When it comes to taking medicines during pregnancy, you need to be cautious and well-informed about the medicine. Also, you must always consult your physician and take the prescribed dosage only.
Is Acetaminophen Safe During Pregnancy?
Acetaminophen is considered safer than the rest of the drugs. However, this too has some side effects when used for long-term and in more than the recommended dosage. So, always consult your physician and strictly adhere to the dosage and duration while taking acetaminophen during pregnancy.
[ Read: When To Take Aspirin In Pregnancy ]
Here is what research says about the long-term effects of acetaminophen.
A Danish National Birth Cohort study has found that “women who took acetaminophen for more than 20 weeks, and in more than one trimester, could be at high risk of having a child with behavioral problems (3).”
A Norwegian study, “Prenatal Exposure to Acetaminophen and Risk of ADHD,” found that the risk of this disorder increases with prolonged exposure to this medicine. The study also enunciated that women who took prenatal acetaminophen for 22 to 28 days were six times more at the risk of having children with ADHD. Other findings stated that fathers, who took acetaminophen for more than29 days before conception, were two times more likely to have children with ADHD (4).
Can Acetaminophen Cause Miscarriage Or Birth Loss?
As long as the dose of acetaminophen taken during pregnancy does not exceed the recommended quantity, the chances of miscarriage or birth loss are rare.
The medicine needs to be taken in the right dosage to avoid any complications during pregnancy. Find out more about the dosages next.
How Much Acetaminophen Should You Take During Pregnancy?
The maximum recommended dose of acetaminophen is 4g per day (5).
Talk to your doctor before taking the medication to ensure that you are taking the right dosage. Also, since acetaminophen comes in combination with various other compounds, it is best to check the composition of the medicine before use.
Note: If you have any underlying medical issues such as cirrhosis (a severe liver disease), then talk to the doctor before taking acetaminophen. A combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone (narcotic) should not be taken during pregnancy, as it can lead to withdrawal symptoms in the baby after they are born, which can be life-threatening in some cases. The medicines can also pass into breast milk and harm the baby (6).
If the doctor prescribes acetaminophen, ensure you take no more than the recommended dosage to avoid complications, which we talk about next.
Prenatal acetaminophen administration for over 28 days has also been associated with (7):
- Lower performance intelligence quotient (IQ)
- Shorter male infant anogenital distance (predicting poor male reproductive potential). It is also called Cryptorchidism, wherein the male testes in newborns do not descend properly into the scrotal sac (8).
- Neurodevelopmental problems (communication, gross motor development)
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Delayed language skills.
According to the research data provided by the Swedish Environmental Longitudinal, Mother and Child, Asthma and Allergy study (SELMA), a delay in language development was evident in children at 30 months of age. In this study, 754 women were enrolled and were asked to account the number of tablets of acetaminophen they have taken during eight to thirteen weeks of pregnancy (9).
[ Read: Fever During Pregnancy ]
Therefore, it is recommended to take low doses of acetaminophen for a short period during pregnancy. Moreover, take it only after consulting your doctor, and when it is the only safe medication for relief from pain or fever. Though complications due to the use of acetaminophen are rare, doctors should provide information about the drug before prescribing it to you. Also, always check the composition of the medicine to ensure it is safe for you and the baby.
Did you take acetaminophen during your pregnancy? Share your experience with us in the comment section below.
This post is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for a doctor’s consultation. Do not use any medication without talking to your doctor.
2. Ronald A. Black, and Ashley Hill; Over-the-counter medications in pregnancy; American Family physician
3. FAQ on acetaminophen use during pregnancy The Teratology Society.
4. Long-term prenatal use of acetaminophen associated with ADHD risk; American Academy of Pediatrics.
5. Lars Bremer, et.al; Paracetamol medication during pregnancy: insights on intake frequencies, dosages and effects on hematopoietic stem cell populations in cord blood from a longitudinal prospective pregnancy cohort; NCBI (2017)
6. Acetaminophen and hydrocodone; Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan
7. Toda K; Is acetaminophen safe in pregnancy?; NCBI (2017)
8. Morten Jensen et al; Maternal use of acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and acetylsalicylic acid during pregnancy and risk of cryptorchidism; Wolters Kluwer
9. CG Bornehag, et.al; Prenatal exposure to acetaminophen and children’s language development at 30 months; The Journal Of The European Psychiatric Association (2017)
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