DURING pregnancy, women take paracetamol for a myriad of reasons.

But experts have now revealed that popping the pain killers could stop your child sleeping properly.

Medics in the US said this has particularly been found in children aged three-years-old.

Writing in PLOS One the experts said that babies that had been exposed to acetaminophen in the uterus were more likely to have sleep and attention problems.

Acetaminophen is the medical term for paracetamol.

Experts used data from the First Baby Study (FBS), which looked at women in Pennsylvania, US.

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The women were interviewed throughout their pregnancies in order to determine for what, and when they used the medication.

The data shows that the main reasons paracetamol was taken, included a fever, infection, muscle pain and headache.

It's important to note that the NHS states that paracetamol is safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding at recommended doses.

But the US experts said: "Clinicians should carefully weigh the positives and negatives related to recommending or prescribing acetaminophen for use during pregnancy."

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They added that use of the drugs has been shown to disrupt cell development which would result in placental damage and altered foetal development.

However, the study did not monitor the use of the pills during the last several weeks of pregnancy – something the experts say is a limitation to their study.

Experts have warned that the study does not mean that paracetamol in pregnancy causes changes in children.

Prof James Dear, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology, Queen’s Medical Research Institute, University of Edinburgh, said: "A key weakness, which the authors acknowledge, is they do not know the dose or duration of paracetamol use. 

"If paracetamol causes attention and sleep problems in offspring then there should be a dose-response relationship.  This paper could not test this.

“The BNF (British National Formulary) states that paracetamol in pregnancy is not known to be harmful. 

"NICE states that ‘paracetamol is the analgesic of choice for women who are trying to conceive or who are pregnant’.  The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology state that paracetamol is the analgesic of choice in pregnancy. 

"As with any medication taken during pregnancy, paracetamol should be used only as needed and at the lowest effective dose for the shortest time."

Dr Graeme Fairchild, Reader in Developmental Psychopathology, University of Bath said expectant mothers shouldn't worry too much about the findings of this paper.

He added that if they need to, they should continue to take paracetamol.

"There is such a small difference in rates of sleep problems and attention problems between the two groups of children. 

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"We already know that prenatal exposure to maternal stress increases risk of mental health problems in offspring and has consequences for brain development in utero."

Dr Fairchild said the very small differences between the groups in rates of sleep problems and attention problems could be largely or entirely explained by higher rates of stress in the mothers who took paracetamol during pregnancy (plus it seems they were more likely to take other forms of over the counter medication too), he added.

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