A study recently published in the JAMA Paediatrics journal linked paracetamol to behavioural problems in childhood. The researchers followed over 7000 UK women during the 1990s who had taken paracetamol during pregnancy and the behaviour of their children at the age of seven years.  The women were asked at 18 and 32 weeks of pregnancy whether they had used paracetamol in the previous three months.


  • No information was collected on the dose, how often and for how long the paracetamol was taken
  • The reasons for taking the paracetamol were not analysed, but included headaches, migraine, muscle and joint pains and infections ( bladder, flu and other)
  • No evidence was found that paracetamol causes childhood behavioural problems, other plausible explanations for the observed association exist, particularly the association with infection or fever and developmental harm. 



The researchers found that 5% of children whose mothers took paracetamol had behavioural problems.  For paracetamol use at 18 weeks, the total incidence of behavioural difficulties at the age of 7years was 5.6% compared with 4.8% for children whose mothers did not take paracetamol ( a difference of 1 child in 125) . At 32 weeks, the figures were 6.3% for the paracetamol group and 4.3% for those who did not take paracetamol. 

All medicine is a balance of risk and benefit, medication during pregnancy should be kept to a minimum and taken  for the shortest duration, including paracetamol. The study results have not changed any clinical recommendations. Paracetamol is useful for treating fever and pain and remains the first choice for treating these conditions in pregnancy

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