A new study has warned there is a high risk of babies developing behaviour problems if mums-to-be take paracetamol after 18 weeks of pregnancy.
The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, analysed data from 7,796 mums. It showed that children exposed to paracetamol in the womb had an increased risk of developing emotional problems and hyperactivity symptoms by the age of seven.
So do new mums need to be worried about taking paracetamol during pregnancy?
Doctor Helen Webberley, GP at Oxford Online Pharmacy told The Huffington Post UK: “The trouble is that we have two common things here, taking paracetamol and behavioural problems, and this kind of retrospective study often throws up correlations that may be coincidental.”
“All the studies that have been done to date show that taking paracetamol is very safe during pregnancy. Mums should continue to take it if they need to, unless they are advised otherwise by their doctor.”
How much paracetamol should I take if I am expecting?
Official NHS advice still says that expectant mothers can take the drug as long as they minimise their use.
It is recommended that if mothers need to take paracetamol - to reduce a temperature or fever - they should take the lowest possible dosage over the shortest period of time.
Should I avoid taking paracetamol in the first trimester?
It is advised that pregnant women should minimise all use of medicine whilst they are expecting, if at all possible. In particular, during the first three months women should “avoid taking medicines.”
The NHS says: “Conditions such as colds or minor aches and pains often don’t need treating with medicines.”
Are there any paracetamol I should not take?
NHS advice warns against paracetamol combined with caffeine as high levels of caffeine can result in babies having a low birth weight, which can increase the risk of health problems in later life.
Should I speak to my GP before taking medication?
If you are concerned about taking any medication during your pregnancy then you should consult your GP or medical practitioner.
Or if you have taken a small dosage of paracetamol and it isn’t controlling your pain, consult your GP before progressing to other medications.
Can I take paracetamol while I am breastfeeding?
The NHS says yes, you can. It appears in your breast milk in small amounts and is unlikely to cause any harm to your baby.
Does paracetamol increase autism risk?
The study, which was conducted on 2,644 mothers in Spain, was the first to ever conclude that prenatal exposure to paracetamol had different effects on girls and boys; 30% of males were more likely to be on the autistic spectrum.
However, the findings of the study came under scrutiny from experts, Dr James Cusack - director of science at autism charity Autistica - told The Independent: “This paper does not provide sufficient evidence to support the claim that there is a strong association between paracetamol use and the presentation of symptoms of autism.”
“The results presented are preliminary in their nature, and so should not concern families or pregnant women.”
Michael Twigg at the University of East Anglia, said: “There’s no need to avoid paracetamol at all. If you’ve got a raging headache, it’s perfectly fine to take it.”