Is acetaminophen delaying your baby’s first words?

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Acetaminophen And A Baby’s First Words

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There is so much information out there about the dos and don’ts of pregnancy for women. Some of it can feel overwhelming, and some of it can feel exaggerated, but now a recent study (READ THE STUDY) is raising some serious red flags when it comes to a common pain reliever found in many medicines. 

Researchers from the University of Illinois have discovered a link between the increased use of acetaminophen during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester, and language delays in young children (READ MORE)

Acetaminophen, found in common medicines like Tylenol, NyQuil, and Robitussin, is widely regarded as the safest pain reliever and fever reducer for pregnant women. Despite this, the study suggests approaching the common over-the-counter med with some caution when using it to treat minor discomforts during pregnancy. Will there be times when you absolutely need to take it? Of course. But should it be a go-to for every single little ache and pain? Probably not. 

This new research builds on previous studies that hinted at a connection between acetaminophen use during pregnancy and children’s communication skills. However, this latest study uses more precise methods to measure language development impacts, revealing significant vocabulary reductions in two-year-olds and lower language skills at age three. 

The methodology of the study involved tracking the development of 298 children from pregnancy through their early years, providing a detailed analysis of their language abilities, and correlating those abilities with acetaminophen use during pregnancy. 

The study’s findings underscore the importance of fetal brain development during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, a critical period for language development. Researchers speculate that acetaminophen’s effect on the endocannabinoid system, which plays a crucial role in fetal development, may contribute to the observed language delays.

 Notably, the study observed that each use of acetaminophen in the third trimester could result in a nearly two-word reduction in vocabulary for two-year-olds, with more pronounced effects seen in male children.

While the researchers emphasize the need for further studies to confirm their findings, they advise pregnant women to exercise caution when using acetaminophen for minor aches and pains. The study’s lead author, Megan Woodbury, and principal investigator, Susan Schantz, stress the importance of weighing the benefits and risks of acetaminophen use during pregnancy (READ MORE), especially when treating minor discomforts. 

The key takeaway? This recent study contributes to a growing body of evidence suggesting that even commonly used medications can have unforeseen impacts on early childhood development. As scientists continue to explore the relationship between prenatal exposure to drugs and child health outcomes, it becomes increasingly clear that more nuanced guidelines may be needed to help expectant parents navigate the complexities of medication use during pregnancy.

For now, the message is one of caution and awareness, encouraging individuals to consult their healthcare professionals when considering the use of acetaminophen and other medications during this critical period. That is the best we can do—educate ourselves and make the best decisions we can with the information we have. 

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