Experts Say Common Painkiller, Acetaminophen, Not Safe for Pregnant Women

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Pregnant women who take the common painkiller, Acetaminophen, or paracetamol, to treat a headache, fever, or pain should double down on the medication as an international group of experts said it's not safe for moms or their babies.

In a joint statement in Nature Reviews Endrocrinology, experts from countries like the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Scotland, and Brazil agreed that they would not recommend Acetaminophen to women in the family way.

The medication, more commonly known by its brand name, Tylenol, in the U.S. has been linked to reproductive and urogenital disorders and neurodevelopmental disorders. Ann Bauer, an epidemiologist at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, said that there is growing evidence to be concerned about Acetaminophen for pregnant women, but further research is required to determine its exact impact.

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Widely Available, Widely Used

Acetaminophen is in at least 600 pain relievers aside from Tylenol, and it's widely available and widely used in the U.S. Data has shown that 65 percent of pregnant women take this drug when only about a third of them actually need this for urgent care.

"We don't want to try and scare anybody, but we want to see that 65% go down," Bauer told USA Today.

The experts want the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct a review to provide more evidence-based advice for the public. They also need doctors to educate their patients on the risks and concerns of paracetamol intake so that they can make informed decisions.

Bauer also clarified that the risk of short-term exposure to the medication, around two weeks or less, is modest. On the other hand, prolonged use could be significantly worse for the mother and baby's health.

Dr. Christopher Zahn, the vice president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who was not part of the signatories, said that the experts' latest advice is not groundbreaking as many obstetrician-gynecologists in the U.S. only prescribe Acetaminophen for specific medical conditions. He agreed that pregnant women should be educated on taking pain relievers in moderation and advised that they must consult with their doctor if they have some concerns about pain or fever.

What's the Harm?

Barring the discovery of the exact mechanisms, the authors said that Acetaminophen could disrupt the development of the baby's reproductive tracts and organs. The drug might also increase the risk of health issues like ADHD and infertility.

In many cases, people don't consider the side effects of Acetaminophen as worrying since it is easily accessible at grocery stores or vending machines. For years, Tylenol has also been the only drug that the FDA hasn't flagged down for pregnant women; thus, many moms think this is generally safe.

Meanwhile, in response to the latest findings, a spokesperson for the FDA said that their 2015 drug safety communications did mention a need to review Acetaminophen down the line. The agency said it would continue to monitor and evaluate this medication among pregnant women.

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