A maxi-study of 14,000 children links the intake of paracetamol in pregnancy with the greatest risk of behavioural problems such as hyperactivity and attention deficit in childhood, especially for boys.

Published in the journal Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, the study was conducted by Jean Golding of the University of Bristol who explains: “our results add to a series of worrying scientific evidence on the possible side effects of paracetamol intake during pregnancy, from respiratory problems (asthma) to behavioural.

They reinforce the recommendation that pregnant women take medicines with caution and always under strict medical supervision, only when necessary”.

Paracetamol is the only painkiller recommended in pregnancy. In this study – characterised by many years of observation of the state of health of children (monitored from 6 months to adolescence) – pregnant women were asked 7 months of pregnancy if they had taken, and how often, paracetamol in the previous months and, if so, for which problem. The children were subjected to cognitive and behavioural tests of various types over time.

A connection has emerged between greater risk of behavioural problems and intake of paracetamol in pregnancy, regardless of the reasons that led the woman to take the medicine. This association, however, vanishes once the children have finished the elementary school cycle.

“It is important that our results are verified in future studies – Golding emphasises; we could not establish the existence of a link between cause and effect between paracetamol and behavioural problems, rather just an association between the two. in the long term if older children, and then later adults – children of women who have taken paracetamol during pregnancy – are sheltered from behaviour problems,” he concludes.