A consensus statement that was recently published in the journal Nature Reviews Endocrinology claims that a growing body of research shows that prenatal exposure to paracetamol, or acetaminophen, may alter fetal development and increase the risks of neurodevelopmental, reproductive, and urogenital disorders.
ACOG and obstetrician-gynecologists across the country have always identified acetaminophen as one of the only safe pain relievers for pregnant individuals during pregnancy. This consensus statement, and studies that have been conducted in the past, show no clear evidence that proves a direct relationship between the prudent use of acetaminophen during any trimester and fetal developmental issues.
Neurodevelopmental disorders, in particular, are multifactorial and very difficult to associate with a singular cause. The brain does not stop developing until at least 15 months of age, which leaves room for children to be exposed to a number of factors that could potentially lead to these issues.
The authors are not recommending anything counter to what is already done by obstetrician-gynecologists when prescribing acetaminophen for a given clinical condition. ACOG’s clinical guidance remains the same and physicians should not change clinical practice until definitive prospective research is done. Most importantly, patients should not be frightened away from the many benefits of acetaminophen. However, as always, any medication taken during pregnancy should be used only as needed, in moderation, and after the pregnant patient has consulted with their doctor.