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Use of Tylenol by Pregnant Mothers Linked to Autism and ADHD in Kids

Autism and ADHD as Disorders

The use of acetaminophen products such as Tylenol has increased dramatically in the US in recent decades. However, many studies have suggested that using these products while pregnant may increase the risk of autism and ADHD diagnoses in the child. Autism and ADHD are two different neurodevelopmental disorders that impact the central nervous system and affect brain development.

Both disorders are more common in boys, and the rates for both are rising. While more research is needed to understand the full extent of the link between acetaminophen and autism/ADHD, it is important for pregnant women to be aware of the potential risks associated with these products.

The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been on the rise in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 44 children in the United States were diagnosed with ASD in 2018, while in 2000 about 1 in 150 were diagnosed.

Autism begins before age 3 and generally lasts throughout a person’s life, though some symptoms may improve over time. People with autism may behave, communicate or learn in ways that are different from other people. The abilities of those with autism vary as well, some people may have advanced conversations and others may be nonverbal.  

There is still much unknown about why the rates of autism and ADHD have increased so dramatically in recent years, but some experts believe that environmental factors such as exposure to toxins or chemicals may play a role. Others believe that it may be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Recent evidence points to acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol.

More About Autism as a Developmental Disorder

Autism is a developmental disorder that can cause difficulties with social communication and awareness skills. People with autism may avoid eye contact, not respond to their name by 9 months old, not play interactive games by 12 months old, and not notice other children and join them in play by 3 years old.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is actually a range of neurodevelopmental conditions that includes autism and other related disorders, such as Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). ASD begins in early childhood and lasts throughout a person’s life. People with ASD often have difficulty communicating and interacting with others. They may also have repetitive behaviors and restricted interests.

While researchers have searched for a single cause for ASD, they’ve believed that both genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of ASD. There is also no cure for ASD, but there are treatments that can help people with ASD manage their symptoms. Clinical work has established that if diagnosis and intervention is sought early, individuals diagnosed with ASD can lead full and happy lives. In fact, in May 2022, the world’s richest man, namely Elon Musk, announced his own diagnosis with Asperger’s on the television show Saturday Night Live.

Mounting Evidence Blames Acetaminophen Usage by Pregnant Women for Both Autism and ADHD in Children

In 2008, Stephen T. Schultz published a study linking acetaminophen to autism. In the study, parents were surveyed about whether their children were treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen after receiving vaccinations. Researchers found that while ibuprofen use was not associated with an increased risk of autism, acetaminophen was. In 2014, a similar study found that using acetaminophen while pregnant increases the risk of ADHD-like behaviors in children.

In 2014, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics published a study that examined the side effects of medication use during pregnancy. The study looked at more than 64,000 children and their mothers, and found that children born to women who used acetaminophen while pregnant were 13-37% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. The risk was greatest among mothers who used acetaminophen for more than 20 weeks during pregnancy. The study also found that children exposed to acetaminophen in utero were more likely to be treated with ADHD medications or have ADHD-like behaviors by age 7.

A 2017 study in the Journal of Internal Medical Research has suggested that autism could be “an acetaminophen-induced brain injury.” The study’s authors also concluded that the use of acetaminophen in babies and young children may be more strongly associated with autism than its use in pregnancy due to a body’s inability to process the medication in early development. The researchers called for “extreme urgency in probing the long-term effects of acetaminophen use in babies and the possibility that many cases of infantile autism may be induced by acetaminophen exposure shortly after birth.”

In May 2021, the University of Barcelona published its own study in the European Journal of Epidemiology on-point. The study reviewed more than 73,000 mother and child pairs in Europe, and found that children exposed to acetaminophen before birth were 19% more likely to be diagnosed with autism, and also 21% were more likely to show signs of ADHD.

As more research is conducted, it will be crucial to monitor the use of this medication during pregnancy and ensure that parents are aware of the potential risks.

Hundreds of lawsuits have already been filed, toward the goal of reaching settlements. As it is still early for these cases, we highly recommend that diagnosed individuals or their loved ones complete our settlement form, and we can connect you with a leading, experienced attorney as soon as possible to discuss legal options.