Prenatal exposure to paracetamol linked with language delay at 30 months

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Findings from a new study have prompted its authors to suggest there may be cause to limit the use of paracetamol during pregnancy.

In the first study of its kind, researchers examined data from the Swedish Environmental Longitudinal, Mother and Child, Asthma and Allergy study (SELMA) to explore prenatal paracetamol exposure in relation to language development in offspring at 30 months of age. Information was gathered from 754 women who were enrolled into the study in weeks 8-13 of their pregnancy, and whose paracetamol use was measured. The frequency of language delay was measured for their children at 30 months.

The authors found girls born to mothers who took the drug more than six times in early pregnancy were nearly six-times more likely to have language delay than girls born to mothers who did not take paracetamol.

Senior study author, Shanna Swan, said given the prevalence of prenatal paracetamol use and the importance of language development, “Our findings if replicated, suggest that pregnant women should limit their use of this analgesic during pregnancy”.

The SELMA study will follow the children and re-examine language development at seven years.

The findings are published in European Psychiatry.