Can you take paracetamol in pregnancy?
Taking paracetamol in pregnancy has been linked to lower child IQ and increased risk of AHD and autism
When pregnant, the types of medications you can take — including common over-the-counter ones — are limited. This is because minute quantities of these can cross your placenta, affecting your baby. Now, new research suggests that even popular painkillers like paracetamol, thought to be okay for pregnant women to take, can be bad for baby.
Researchers from several US universities, including Harvard, found that pregnant women who take paracetamol risk lowering their baby’s IQ, increase the risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and autism. It could also alter the balance of hormones in the uterus. These results were compiled from nine different studies which included 150,000 mothers and babies.
Paracetamol linked to delayed speech
One study found that pregnant mothers who took paracetamol for pain relief without having a fever, gave birth to children who have a three-point drop in IQ. In another study, the children had speech-learning difficulties.
This isn’t the first time paracetamol has been linked to speech problems. In January 2018, researchers in New York found that paracetamol taken when mum is pregnant can delay her baby’s speech by up to six times. Plus, mums-to-be who took paracetamol six times or more in early pregnancy will more likely have daughters who struggle with speech.
Paracetamol linked to other problems in baby
Another research led by Dr Ilan Matok from Hebrew University of Jerusalem finds that mums-to-be who take paracetamol raises the risk of ADHD in their babies in the womb by 30%, and autism by 20%. This research reviewed 132,738 mothers and their children between 3-11 years old.
So, can I take paracetamol in pregnancy?
Paracetamol is usually the preferred choice of pain relief for pregnant mums. But even with something so mild, the medical recommendation is that if you must take it, then, take the lowest effective dose as infrequent as possible.
The National Health Service UK also says women, if possible, should not take any drugs in the first three months of pregnancy.
Still, doctors recommend paracetamol for pregnant women to treat mild pains and high temperatures. Consult your doctor before taking any medication during pregnancy, including paracetamol.
Relieve stress and soothe headaches the natural way
Before you rush to the painkillers for a mild headache, maybe try these alternative methods before you take any medication:
- Eat well. Maintain a healthy diet and eat your meals at regular scheduled times – it’s good for baby too.
- Stay hydrated. Sometimes, the cause of headaches is simply the fact that you are not drinking enough water. Remember to keep yourself well hydrated and you should see a difference in the frequency of headaches.
- Sleep well. Don’t stay up too late. Sleep on time regularly, as lack of sleep might be a big contributor to your headaches.
- Exercise. It doesn’t have to be strenuous physical activity. Just a morning walk or some quick aerobic exercise should be helpful to prevent headaches.
- Stay away from headache triggers. Take notes on what foods or smells trigger a headache. Write them down to remember avoiding them at all costs.
- Relax. Enrol in yoga classes, get a massage or try deep breathing exercises. These are good ways to relieve stress as well.
It’s best you consult your doctor before ingesting any medications, including herbal treatments or traditional remedies.