Women who take paracetamol while pregnant are more likely to give birth to children who have autism or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to a major international study.
Health data on more than 70,000 children in six European countries, including the UK, was analysed by a team from the University of Barcelona, Spain.
Fifty-six per cent of the mothers who had children on the autism spectrum or with ADHD took paracetamol while pregnant, the researchers discovered.
Paracetamol is the most common drug taken by pregnant women for pain relief, with about 65 per cent saying they used it during pregnancy.
This study did not explore the exact cause, but previous studies have shown that the drug can enter the body of the baby and release toxins that have been linked to poorer cognitive performance and behaviour problems in them (children).
The researchers advised mothers-to-be not to stop taking the drug if they are in pain, but that it should only be used “when necessary” to minimise risk.
Prof Jordi Sunyer, study’s co-author, told MailOnline that, “Paracetamol is the safest anti-inflammatory medication for prenatal life. But, even paracetamol has shown side effects. So, just get it if required.”
ADHD is a behavioural condition defined by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Symptoms typically appear at an early age and become more noticeable as a child grows. These can include constant fidgeting, poor concentration, excessive movement or talking, acting without thinking and little or no sense of danger.
Others are careless mistakes, forgetfulness, difficulty organising tasks and inability to listen or carry out instructions
This new study found out that children whose mothers took the pain relief are 19 per cent more likely to be autistic and 21 per cent more likely to develop ADHD symptoms.
The study, which also included data sourced from Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece and Spain, backs findings from a previous research.
The study was published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.