Paracetamol or acetaminophen is one of the most consumed analgesics during pregnancy, it is estimated that around 65% of pregnant women have used it at some time. It is a drug with analgesic properties that acts by inhibiting the synthesis of prostaglandins, cellular mediators whose main function is to activate the onset of pain. That is the reason why it is one of the most effective and popular medicines to relieve minor pains, such as headaches, and physical discomfort that appear during pregnancy.
It has long been known that paracetamol has the ability to cross the human placenta and reach the fetus, whose system is still too immature to metabolize it. Despite this, it is considered to be a safe drug for pregnancy. However, in recent times, new scientific studies have been published that recommend not consuming it in excessive doses or in a sustained manner during pregnancy.
5 risks of paracetamol during pregnancy
It is worth clarifying that, to date, there is no research that has proven the fetal toxicity of paracetamol. However, there is scientific evidence that links excessive or continued consumption of paracetamol during pregnancy with an increased chance of suffering from alterations in child development.
1. Affects infant brain development
Regular consumption of paracetamol during pregnancy could affect the brain development of children during the first years of life, according to a study carried out at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The study asked the mothers of nearly 50,000 children born between 1999 and 2008 to report their acetaminophen use during pregnancy, while looking at the children’s neural development during their first months of life. The results revealed that children who were exposed in the womb to acetaminophen for more than 28 days showed poorer gross motor development and greater behavioral and communication problems than children whose mothers did not use acetaminophen or used it for less time.
2. Increases the risk of asthma in children
An investigation carried out at the University of Oslo has revealed the relationship between the consumption of paracetamol during pregnancy and the risk of children developing respiratory problems, especially asthma , during the first 7 years of life. The study evaluated the incidence of asthma in just over 53,000 Norwegian children at age 3, and of these, about half were followed up to age 7. The results revealed that children whose mothers had used paracetamol during the first trimesters of pregnancy had a 20% risk of developing asthma at 18 months, a probability that increased to 50% when they reached 7 years.
3. Promotes the development of childhood ADHD
Did you know that the sustained consumption of paracetamol during pregnancy can increase the risk of suffering from ADHD during childhood ? This has been shown by a study carried out at the University of California in which the consumption of this drug was evaluated in more than 64,000 pregnant women who gave birth between 1996 and 2002 in Denmark, while hyperactive behaviors and problems were analyzed. attention on their children as they grew up. More than half of the mothers reported having used paracetamol during pregnancy, while children whose mothers used the drug had a 13% to 37% higher risk of developing signs of ADHD in childhood.
4. Increases the risk of cryptorchidism
Excessive consumption of paracetamol during pregnancy can cause various problems in the male reproductive system in childhood, as revealed by a study carried out at the Aarhus University Hospital. The research evaluated the effect of some drugs during pregnancy on the development of cryptorchidism in more than 47,000 children born between 1996 and 2002 in Denmark. The results revealed that boys whose mothers used acetaminophen for more than 4 weeks of pregnancy, especially in the first and second trimesters, had a moderately increased risk of delayed testicular descent, the condition known medically as cryptorchidism. Also, the consumption of paracetamol during pregnancyIt has been linked to reduced testosterone levels in boys and an increased risk of infertility.
5. Can Cause Heart and Lung Failure in Children
There is scientific evidence linking the sustained use of paracetamol during pregnancy with a higher risk of developing heart and lung failure in childhood. This was demonstrated by a study carried out at the KU Leuven University where a group of 12 investigations with 25 case studies were analyzed whose objective was to find an association between maternal intake of paracetamol and constriction or closure of the fetal arterial duct. The results of most of these studies revealed that the consumption of this drug during pregnancy can reduce the arterial conduits in the fetus, one of the most frequent causes of alterations such as heart and lung failure in children.
What dose of paracetamol is safe during pregnancy?
There is actually no maximum recommended dose of paracetamol during pregnancy as its effects can vary from woman to woman, meaning that a safe dose for one pregnant woman may be dangerous for another. For this reason, it is advised not to use paracetamol, as well as any other drug during pregnancy, unless it is clinically necessary and always under medical supervision.
In this case, it is suggested to consume the minimum effective dose with the least effective frequency and for the shortest possible time. The most common is that 500 mg of paracetamol is prescribed every 6 or 8 hours, depending on the intensity of the symptoms. A prescription that in no case should exceed the consumption of 4 grams of paracetamol in 24 hours as it could put at risk not only the fetus but also the mother.