Is taking Tylenol during pregnancy safe? Experts weigh in on research, pending lawsuits

HOUSTON – You may hear ads on the radio or television about lawsuits against Tylenol.

The ads claim children born with some learning disorders, ADHD and autism, may have gotten the disorder through exposure to acetaminophen during pregnancy.

Answering whether or not Acetaminophen can cause autism, health experts find themselves on opposite sides of the aisle.

“I am absolutely convinced that it’s not only a link, but it’s a cause,” said Dr. Roberta Ness, Autism Justice scientific consultant and former Dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health.

“It’s an exposure, but I don’t know if they can tell you that’s the cause,” said Dr. Lindsay Sillas, OB/GYN with The Woman’s Hospital of Texas.

In the study, published in Nature, 91 scientists across the globe say women should forego this pain reliever unless it’s medically indicated.

It reads, “Research suggests that prenatal exposure to APAP might alter fetal development, which could increase the risks of some neurodevelopmental, reproductive, and urogenital disorders.”

“I was thinking, ‘Oh, this is going to be another vaccine and autism scare,’ and then I started reviewing the literature,” Ness said. “There have been 29 really huge, longitudinal studies, 26 of which have shown a connection.”

Ness said this is not a warning for every pregnant woman who pops Tylenol, but instead she refers to one specific group of patients.

“Only 10% of women take Acetaminophen for a long duration during pregnancy, and it’s those women that are of concern,” she said. “Have the information and use it for the shortest duration of time that you can. That’s all I’m saying.”

However, Dr. Lindsay Sillas stands firm in the belief that women can safely take Acetaminophen for any duration, she points to other factors that may contribute to learning disorders, ADHD or autism.

“What were some of the other things going on with those patients for them to even need Acetaminophen?” Dr. Sillas asked. “Maybe whatever is the cause of why they needed it could have been the risk factor for why the child actually had some of these diagnoses.”

Reasons to take Acetaminophen continuously during pregnancy include chronic pain, sleep problems, kidney stones, and it’s used as a way to avoid narcotics or NSAIDs.

There are also pain-reducing options that require no medications.

“Maybe that’s yoga, maybe that’s meditation, have you met with a chiropractor? A physical therapist? Aqua therapy? So, it’s not just relying on a pill,” Dr. Sillas added.

The one thing all health experts agree on is if you have a chronic condition that requires extended use of anything during pregnancy, talk to your doctor about any safety concerns.