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Acetaminophen Use during Pregnancy Can Lead to ADHD in Offspring



What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a common disorder of behaviour among children which can extend until adulthood. Thus it is also termed as a neuro developmental disorder of behaviour. A child or an adult with ADHD may often show difficulty of adapting to a particular situation and may not have control of what he or she is about to say or do. He or she may appear reckless, impulsive or restless. A child with ADHD is often hyperactive and has difficulty concentrating. He or she may also manifest hyperkinetic disorders and hyperactivity. It is said that ADHD is linked to other diseases such as schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorders.

There are three types of ADHD: the predominantly inattentive type, the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type and the combined type. The predominantly inattentive type has difficulty with organization or finishing a task. He or she has difficulty in following instructions or conversations. The predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type finds it hard to keep still by fidgeting and talking a lot. He may constantly by running, jumping about or climbing. He or she may be impulsive and restless and may grab things, interrupt others and speaking at inappropriate times. These children find it hard to listen to directions and cannot wait for their turn, thus being more prone to more accidents and injuries. The combined type is also inattentive and restless like the other two types and had both the symptoms of the former two types.

Signs and symptoms that may point to ADHD in a child include restlessness, hyperactivity, being fidgety, continuous interruption to people, lack of concentration in performing tasks, inattentiveness, and have difficulty in waiting for his or her turn.

The causes of ADHD are quite unknown. It is said that the risk for this disorder increases with genetics, sex (more common in boys), and biological and chemical imbalances in the brain. There are some studies which point out those food additives such as colourings may contribute to ADHD behaviours. Mercury exposure during pregnancy can also be a risk factor. ADHD can be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, a pediatrician or a psychologist. The doctor will first gather data regarding the child's behaviour at home and at school and identify behaviour pattern types. An electroencephalogram or EEG can also help in accurately diagnosing ADHD in children. Usually, the symptoms of ADHD begin before age 7 and can further progress on unto adulthood. Hyperactivity usually decreases as the person gets older.

Acetaminophen and ADHD Risk

Acetaminophen is a drug found in over the counter products for fever, colds and pains such as Tylenol. It is an antipyretic and an analgesic for fever and pain. It was once prescribed to pregnant females because experts claimed that acetaminophen may not have harmful effects on the unborn baby and the mother as well. However, recent news has it that the intake of acetaminophen during pregnancy can bring about a higher risk in children of ADHD. This study done by researchers from UCLA and from the University of Aarhus in Denmark have shown that taking acetaminophen during pregnancy can bring about risks to the harmful fetus, questioning whether acetaminophen is indeed safe to use among pregnant women. The researchers used data from the Danish National Birth Cohort which was a nationwide study on children and pregnancies and the various complications and diseases resulting from several factors. Data gathered from 64,322 children and mothers who were enrolled in the Danish cohort from 1996 to 2002 showed that more than half of the pregnant women studied used acetaminophen during pregnancy. Children who were born to mothers who used acetaminophen had a 13 percent to 37 percent higher risk of having hyperkinetic disorders such as ADHD starting at age 7. The risk rose to 50 percent or more in mothers who used acetaminophen for more than 20 weeks of gestation. It is theorized that acetaminophen may have effects on the unborn baby by crossing the placental barrier.

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