January 11, 2018

Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Associated With Elevated Rate of Language Delay in Girls

NEW YORK -- January 11, 2018 -- Researchers found an elevated rate of language delay in girls at age 30 months born to mothers who used acetaminophen during pregnancy, but not in boys.

The study, published in the European Psychiatry, is the first to examine language development in relation to acetaminophen levels in urine.

The Swedish Environmental Longitudinal, Mother and Child, Asthma and Allergy study (SELMA) provided data for the research. Information was gathered from 754 women who were enrolled into the study in weeks 8 to 13 of their pregnancy.

For the study, researchers asked participants to report the number of acetaminophen tablets they had taken between conception and enrolment, and tested the acetaminophen concentration in their urine at enrolment. The frequency of language delay, defined as the use of fewer than 50 words, was measured by both a nurse’s assessment and a follow-up questionnaire filled out by participants about their child’s language milestones at 30 months.

Acetaminophen was used by 59% of the women in early pregnancy.

Language delay was seen in 10% of all the children in the study, with greater delays in boys than girls overall. However, girls born to mothers with higher exposure -- those who took acetaminophen more than 6 times in early pregnancy -- were nearly 6 times more likely to have language delay than girls born to mothers who did not take acetaminophen.

These results are consistent with studies reporting decreased IQ and increased communication problems in children born to mothers who used more acetaminophen during pregnancy.

Both the number of tablets and concentration in urine were associated with a significant increase in language delay in girls, and a slight but not significant decrease in boys. Overall, the results suggest that acetaminophen use in pregnancy results in a loss of the well-recognised female advantage in language development in early childhood.

The SELMA study will follow the children and re-examine language development at 7 years.

“Given the prevalence of prenatal acetaminophen use and the importance of language development, our findings, if replicated, suggest that pregnant women should limit their use of this analgesic during pregnancy,” said senior author Shanna Swan, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York. “It’s important for us to look at language development because it has shown to be predictive of other neurodevelopmental problems in children.”

Reference: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eurpsy.2017.10.007

SOURCE: Mount Sinai Health System

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