Could Acetaminophen Use Contribute to Delayed Speech Among Girls?

by Angela Repke January 26, 2018

pregnant woman with medicine tablets in hand

Pregnant women acquire all different types of fun ailments, leaving them with little choices on the medications they’re allowed to take. When I was pregnant with my first, I endured immense pain surrounding the tissues around my ribs, but there was nothing I could do. I knew I had to trudge through it until my rib cage finally bellowed enough to make room for my growing baby boy. Sometimes women will take an over-the-counter acetaminophen when they have a similar pain or feel sick.

But new research suggests that pregnant women who take Tylenol "or its equivalent) may have daughters with delayed speech. It seems like a strange connection, but according to the study, daughters of women who took acetaminophen while pregnant were more likely to have delayed onset of speech. The study, found in the journal European Psychiatry, surveyed 754 pregnant Swedish women between weeks eight and 13. The questionnaire asked how often the pregnant women took acetaminophen, and the participants were also asked to include urine samples throughout the weeks to detect the acetaminophen concentration. The children from these pregnant women were then studied.

All children in Sweden were given a developmental screening at 30 months. Those who did not say 30 words at this time were categorized as having a speech and language delay. About 10 percent of children in the study had delayed speech at 30 months, with boys being the more likely gender. Boys are often much more common to have a language delay compared to their counterparts. According to the study "girls born to mothers in the high-acetaminophen group were nearly six times more likely to have language delays than girls whose mothers had used none.” The more Tylenol or its equivalent that women took and the higher the levels found in their urine, the more evidence of language delays in the daughters. Interestingly enough, boys of mothers who took acetaminophen were not more likely to have a speech delay.

The researchers theorized that “girls around 30 months tend to have higher vocabularies than boys – a well-recognized female advantage in early-childhood language development." So, the study found that the intake of acetaminophen reduced this advantage. Digesting acetaminophen during the early stages of pregnancy may also be linked to ADHD. Yet it is commonplace for doctors and midwives alike to tell their patients that it is okay to take the over-the-counter drug while pregnant.

Although I didn’t take acetaminophen when I was pregnant with my son, he still ended up having a speech delay. And the second time around, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I didn’t take anything, either – yet her speech soared. And now I wonder, if I had taken the over-the-counter drug, would my daughter have been a late-talker like those in the study? It’s an interesting connection, that’s for sure. So, remember to check with your obstetrician or midwife before taking anything that you question while pregnant. Take the time to do some research on your own, too. And if you’re having a reoccurring pain or other ailment, bring up this study to your care provider. It may not be a bad idea.




Angela Repke

Author



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