The Trouble with Tylenol – Pregnancy & Acetaminophen

A pregnant woman has limited options when it comes to alleviating the discomfort of musculoskeletal pain or lowering a fever.  Essentially the one and only thing that has been available over the counter is acetaminophen, which we all know as Tylenol.  Now a recent article in the New York Times has elucidated new studies that strengthen the possible link between Tylenol use during pregnancy and childhood risk of asthma and ADHD.  Asthma risk was increased by 13% in 7-year-old children, while ADHD risk was increased by a whopping 31%.  While the exact mechanisms behind these associations is not clear, one possible theory is related to acetaminophen’s action of reducing the body’s level of glutathione, an important antioxidant.

To be clear, this is not a definitive relationship of causation, and the sort of study to determine cause will likely never be done for ethical reasons.  So what is a pregnant woman to do?  The current recommendation is to use these medications sparingly, and only when really necessary.  In our pill popping culture, we tend to forget that common over-the-counter remedies are still real drugs with real risks and side effects.  The article does a great job of discussing alternative pain management strategies such as acupuncture and meditation.  Gentle physical medicine modalities such as Bowen therapy and osteopathic manipulation are also available at Connecticut Natural Health.  Speak with your physician about which options may be best for you and your developing child.

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