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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Johns Hopkins: Taking Tylenol During Pregnancy Linked To Elevated Risks for Autism, ADHD

A new study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that exposure to acetaminophen in the womb may increase a child’s risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The researchers analyzed data from the Boston Birth Cohort, a 20-year study of early life factors influencing pregnancy and child development. They found that children whose cord blood samples contained the highest levels of acetaminophen — the generic name for the drug Tylenol — were roughly three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD or autism spectrum disorder later in childhood, compared to children with the lowest levels of acetaminophen in their cord blood.

“People in general believe Tylenol is benign, and it can be used safely for headaches, fever, aches, and pains,” says Dr. Xiaobin Wang, a professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of population, family, and reproductive health and the study’s corresponding author. “Our study further supports the concerns raised by previous studies—that there is a link between Tylenol use during pregnancy and increased risk for autism or ADHD.”

For the study, co-authored by Bloomberg School postdoctoral fellow Dr. Yuelong Ji and colleagues, the team measured the biomarkers of acetaminophen and two of its metabolic byproducts in umbilical cord blood samples from 996 individual births.

Their findings were published October 30 in JAMA Psychiatry.

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