The Effect of Acetaminophen on Pregnant Women

by Sahil Rawal (’19)

Fig. 1: Aceteaminophen, a painkiller for pregnant women, may have adverse side effects that were previously unknown.

Acetaminophen is a painkiller that is often used by pregnant women as an analgesic, as it is readily available over-the-counter. The CDC had previously deemed this drug safe, and it was shown to cause no major birth defects. However, there have been recent studies that have shown that acetaminophen may play a role in causing autism-like symptoms in children.

As a result, Dr. Avella-Garcia from the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology and her team decided to study whether the exposure to acetaminophen is related to negative neurodevelopment patterns. The study included 2644 mothers who were interviewed on how often they were taking acetaminophen, either never, sporadic, or persistent. The children, once they were born, were studied at ages 1 and 5 with tests such as the Childhood Autism Spectrum Test to determine their mental states. The results of their experiment showed that 40% of the mothers that used acetaminophen had children with higher risks of showing impulsivity symptoms. As a result, the researchers concluded that prenatal exposure to acetaminophen leads to an increased number of autism-related symptoms.

This study is important because it could alter the future of medications use during pregnancy. This could eventually decrease the number of children who have autism.



  1. B. Avella-Garcia, Acetaminophen use in pregnancy and neurodevelopment: attention function and autism spectrum symptoms. International Journal of Epidemiology (2016). doi: 10.1093/ije/dyw115.
  2. Image retrieved from:

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