Health

Reduce paracetamol use, experts tell pregnant women



P

regnant women should reduce their use of paracetamol and warnings should be added to packaging, an international coalition of experts said today.

They said there was growing evidence paracetamol might affect a baby’s development in the womb and increase the risk of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and autism.

They added it should only be taken at the “lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time” and pregnant women should avoid “indiscriminate” use.

Current NHS advice is that pregnant and breastfeeding women can take paracetamol safely. Both the US and European medicines regulators say the drug is of minimal risk when taken correctly during pregnancy.

More than half of pregnant women worldwide are thought to take it to relieve fever and pain, as alternatives such as ibuprofen are not recommended in later stages of pregnancy.

Today, more than 90 experts, including from the US, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden and France, issued a “consensus statement” calling for precautions to be taken in the use of paracetamol in pregnancy after reviewing 25 years of research on the subject.

They also said there should be targeted research into the apparent increased risk of “neurodevelopmental, reproductive and urogenital” disorders.

They said there were “disturbing increases” in the number of children with cognitive, learning and/or behavioural problems.

Some research also suggested an increased risk of undescended testicles in boys and early puberty in girls.

However, it is also known an untreated fever in a pregnant woman carries a slight risk of neural and heart disorders, and paracetamol helps reduce that.



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