Associations between paracetamol (acetaminophen) intake between 18 and 32 weeks gestation and neurocognitive outcomes in the child: a longitudinal cohort study

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Background The majority of epidemiological studies concerning possible adverse effects of paracetamol (acetaminophen) in pregnancy have been focussed on childhood asthma. Initial results of a robust association have been confirmed in several studies. Recently, a few cohort studies have looked at particular neurocognitive outcomes, and several have implicated hyperactivity. Objectives In order to confirm these findings, further information and results are required. Here, we assess whether paracetamol intake between 18 and 32 weeks gestation is associated with childhood behavioural and cognitive outcomes using a large population. Methods Data collected by the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) at 32 weeks gestation and referring to the period from 18 to 32 weeks, identified 43.9% of women having taken paracetamol. We used an exposome analysis first to determine the background factors associated with pregnant women taking the drug, and then allowed for those factors to assess associations with child outcomes (measured using regression analyses). Results We identified 15 variables independently associated with taking paracetamol in this time period, which were used as potential confounders. Of the 135 neurocognitive variables considered, adjusting for the likelihood of false discovery, we identified 56 outcomes for adjusted analyses. Adjustment identified 12 showing independent associations with paracetamol use at P < .05, four of which were at P < .0001 (all related to child behaviours reported by the mother at 42 and 47 months; eg conduct problems: adjusted mean score + 0.22 (95% confidence interval 0.10, 0.33)). There were few associations with behavioural or neurocognitive outcomes after age 7‐8 years, whether reported by the mother or the teacher. Conclusions If paracetamol use in mid‐to‐late pregnancy has an adverse effect on child neurocognitive outcome, it appears to mainly relate to the pre‐school period. It is important that these results be tested using other datasets or methodologies before assuming that they are causal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalPaediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2019

Structured keywords

  • Physical and Mental Health
  • Developmental


  • child cognitive outcomes
  • childhood behaviour
  • exposome
  • paracetamol
  • prenatal medication

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