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Should Tylenol come with better warnings for expecting mothers?

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Experts are calling for new research into acetaminophen, the most popular brand of which is Tylenol, and whether it could pose a risk to a child’s development. As more studies are done, a group of leading physicians and scientists are calling for better communication with expecting mothers. By some estimates, 65% of pregnant women take the drug, which has widely been regarded as safe. But now, some scientific research is revealing potential risks, with more than two dozen studies raising questions about a possible connection between prolonged prenatal use of acetaminophen and autism and ADHD.

Karleen DeGroodt is an ICU nurse, dedicated to caring for the sickest patients in her California hospital. That includes working grueling 12-hour shifts, even when she was pregnant with her son Devyn in 2008. She remembers being exhausted from moving patients around the ICU and suffering from aches and pains. To cope, she took Tylenol, a brand of acetaminophen, sometimes up to three times a week. She believes her regular use of the drug may have contributed to her son’s diagnosis. Now 14, Devyn is on the autism spectrum, is non-verbal and communicates using an iPad.

Dr. Roberta Ness is the former Dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health and a longtime adviser to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She’s disturbed by the growing body of research surrounding acetaminophen. “American women are always the last to know,” she said. “I do not understand, as a women’s health expert, researcher, advocate my whole life, I do not understand why women are still treated as some vulnerable little things that we can’t somehow assess the information and come to some reasonable conclusion on our own. “

Several studies have made a potential finding of a link between prenatal use of the drug and developmental issues, the authors associated with those studies consistently call for further research. That call is being echoed by a large contingent of leading scientists, who believe there’s enough evidence to warrant better communication with expecting moms. 91 leading scientists and clinicians joined together in 2021 to issue a consensus statement, expressing concern about the potential developmental risks – stating that women should be made specifically aware of possible autism risks by both product labels and physicians.