BABIES born to mums who take paracetamol during pregnancy are at higher risk of autism and ADHD, a study has claimed.
But researchers say women don’t necessarily need to stop taking the drug to ease their pain.
Researchers in Barcelona analysed 70,000 children across six separate studies on the topic.
Between 14 and 56 per cent of the mums-to-be had reported taking paracetamol while carrying their child.
The study found that children exposed to paracetamol before birth were 19 per cent more likely to develop symptoms of autism.
They were 21 per cent more likely to develop ADHD symptoms.
Lead author of the study at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), Sílvia Alemany, said: "Our findings are consistent with previous research.
"We also found that prenatal exposure to paracetamol affects boys and girls in a similar way, as we observed practically no differences."
Is it safe to take paracetamol during pregnancy?
Researcher Jordi Sunyer said women should not be denied the over-the-counter painkillers during their pregnancy.
But he cautioned “it should be used only when necessary”.
Mounting evidence has suggested exposure to paracetamol in the womb can lead to poorer cognitive performance and behavioural problems.
This study was described as the “largest” yet, including data from the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece and Spain.
But the finding is not proven, there is only a link.
Prof Andrew Shennan, a professor of obstetrics, King’s College London, said it could be the reason the women took paracetamol, rather than the drug itself, to blame.
He told The Sun: "The analysis is not able to rule this out.
"Paracetamol is an important drug to reduce temperatures, and high temperatures can be harmful to pregnancies.
"Currently women should still take paracetamol when needed, and ask advice from their GP or midwife if uncertain."
He explained if the link were true, the added risk is small in reality because autism is rare.
He told The Sun: "This study suggests that in women who took paracetamol in pregnancy the chance of autism in their child could be slightly higher.
"For example, instead of one in 1,000 chance it maybe 1.2/1,000. Or for every five cases of autism there may be an extra one."
The NHS website states: “Paracetamol has been used routinely during all stages of pregnancy to reduce a high temperature and for pain relief.
“There is no clear evidence that it has any harmful effects on an unborn baby.”
But women who are pregnant are advised to steer clear of the other common pain relief medicine ibuprofen.
The NHS website states: “This is because taking ibuprofen at this stage of pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of complications, including a heart problem in your baby and a reduced amount of amniotic fluid.”
What is ADHD and autism?
ADHD is thought to affect up to five per cent of school kids.
The symptoms can appear differently in girls and boys, but generally those with the condition may keep up in class due to having shorter attention spans and appearing forgetful.
Sometimes they can be hyperactive, which causes them to fidget, excessively talk or interrupt conversation.
Some children overcome the condition when they reach adulthood, but 65 per cent still have symptoms that affect their daily lives.
The NHS says ADHD tends to run in families, but there may also be brain changes in those with the condition.
Meanwhile, autism spectrum disorder affects around one in 100 children in the UK.
Research suggests that autism develops from a combination of genetic and environmental influences, but no one really knows the true cause.
The symptoms of autism depend on the severity; they can have issues with social interaction and communicating.
Someone with autism may not show emotion, struggle to interpret behavioural cues from other people, and have poor eye contact.
They may take longer to understand information, get anxious about unfamiliar situations and do or say the same things repeatedly.
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