Study looks at possible effects of paracetamol in pregnancy

By and is republished with permission.

Researchers say “women shouldn’t be alarmed”, as new research uncovers a potential link between health during pregnancy and the later signs of depression in children.

Professor Karen Waldie.
Professor Karen Waldie. (Source: UoA)

The University of Auckland study looked at 3925 eight-year-olds and their mothers who are part of wider research known as About Growing Up in New Zealand.

Having analysed data collected from the group, the University of Auckland found four lifestyle and health factors during pregnancy that seemed to be predictive of later signs of depression in kids, one of which included the widely-used medication paracetamol.

The other factors included being obese or overweight, smoking, and stress.

Information came after quizzing mothers during pregnancy and, eight years later, quizzing children on signs such as low mood, loss of appetite, and sleep disturbance.

Most of the mothers took paracetamol, and the study showed a “small but significant” statistical association.

International scientists in the journal Nature Reviews Endocrinology backed up the claim. They said the combined weight of animal and human scientific evidence was strong enough for pregnant women to be cautioned by health professionals against its indiscriminate use.

However, they also recognised there was risk to the mother and baby if pain or fever were left unchecked.

“We recognise that limited medical alternatives exist.”

University of Auckland psychology professor Karen Waldie, who analysed the data, said she supported the comment.

“Women shouldn’t be alarmed, but mounting evidence suggests it may be wise to use as low a dose of paracetamol as possible for the shortest time possible during pregnancy,” says Professor Waldie, of the School of Psychology in the Faculty of Science.

The study feeds into research around the world on how exposure to certain nutrients and chemicals during pregnancy may affect how children develop.

“Existing research from the United States indicates that depression affects around one percent of pre-schoolers and two percent of children,” Professor Waldie said.


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