Tylenol and Autism

Children whose mothers took Tylenol and other acetaminophen pain-relieving products while they were pregnant may be more likely to develop autism, according to a recent study.

Tylenol Lawsuit Review

Bernstein Liebhard LLP is investigating autism among children who were exposed to Tylenol in utero.  If your son or daughter has autism and you’re worried that acetaminophen is to blame, please contact our attorneys for a free Tylenol lawsuit review by calling (888) 994-5118.

Tylenol and Pregnancy: Is it Safe?

Almost everyone has Tylenol or another brand of acetaminophen in their medicine cabinet.  Estimates suggest that up to 70% of pregnant women use some form of acetaminophen during pregnancy.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has placed acetaminophen in Pregnancy Category B, reserved for drugs that have not shown a fetal risk. However, Pregnancy Category B drugs have not been subject to controlled studies in pregnant women, or they have been shown to have adverse effects (other than a decrease in fertility) in animal reproduction studies that were not confirmed in controlled studies of women in the first trimester of pregnancy.

There are currently no pain relievers included in Pregnancy Risk Category A, which is reserved for medications that have been deemed completely “safe.”

Tylenol and Autism: The Evidence

In May 2021, a study conducted by researchers in Spain suggested using acetaminophen during pregnancy might increase the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The authors analyzed medical records involving more than 73,000 mother-child pairs across Europe, finding that kids exposed to acetaminophen in-utero were 19% more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than those who weren’t.

While the findings are not definitive proof of a causal relationship between Tylenol and autism, the authors called for more study of the issue. They also recommended that acetaminophen be used in pregnancy “only when necessary.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first study to associate the use of acetaminophen in pregnancy with an increased risk of ASD. In 2018, a metanalysis of seven studies involving 132,178 pairs of mothers and children suggested excessive use of acetaminophen during pregnancy increased a child’s risk of autism by 20%.

Another study involving samples of umbilical blood obtained from 996 mother-child pairs found that children exposed to higher acetaminophen levels were up to 3.62 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism.

What to Know About Autism Spectrum Disorder

ASD currently affects about 1 in 59 children. While the incidence is rising, it’s unclear if this results from increased diagnosis or increased occurrence.

Because people with autism are said to “on the spectrum,” an individual child may exhibit various symptoms that range from mild to severe. Some of the most common ASD symptoms include:

Lack of Social Skills

Children with autism have a hard time interacting with others.  Those on the spectrum usually begin exhibiting social symptoms by the time they’re 8 to 10 months old. These might include:

  • Not responding to their name by their first birthday.
  • No interest in playing, sharing, or talking with others.
  • A preference for being alone.
  • Avoid or reject physical contact.
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Don’t like to be comforted when upset
  • Don’t understand emotions — their own or others’.
  • May not stretch out their arms to be picked up or guided with walking.

Communications Problems

About 40% of kids with autism don’t talk at all. Between 25% and 30% develop some language skills in infancy but lose them later, and others don’t begin talking until later in life. Other communication-related symptoms can include:

  • Flat, robotic speaking voice, or singsong voice
  • Echolalia (repeating the same phrase over and over)
  • Not using or rarely using common gestures (pointing or waving) and not responding to them
  • Inability to stay on topic when talking or answering questions
  • Not recognizing sarcasm or joking

Patterns of Behavior

Many children with autism behave in ways that seem unusual or have unusual interests, such as:

  • Repetitive behaviors, such as hand-flapping, rocking, jumping, or twirling
  • Constant pacing and “hyper” behavior
  • Fixations on certain activities or objects
  • Specific routines or rituals, and becoming upset when a routine is altered, even slightly.
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch, light, and sound
  • Not taking part in “make-believe” play or imitating others’ behaviors
  • Fussy eating habits
  • Lack of coordination, clumsiness
  • Impulsiveness
  • Aggressive behavior towards themselves and others
  • Short attention span

Children with ASD will have symptoms throughout their lives, but it’s possible for them to improve as they get older. The earlier intervention begins, the more likely it is to be effective.

Worried that Tylenol Caused Your Child’s Autism?

You may be eligible to take legal action if your child was exposed to Tylenol in-utero and later diagnosed with ASD. To discuss filing a Tylenol lawsuit with an attorney at Bernstein Liebhard LLP, please call (888) 994-5118.

  1. American Family Physician (October 2014) “Over-the-Counter Medications in Pregnancy” https://www.aafp.org/afp/2014/1015/p548.html
  2. European Journal of Epidemiology (May 2021) “Prenatal and postnatal exposure to acetaminophen in relation to autism spectrum and attention-deficit and hyperactivity symptoms in childhood: Meta-analysis in six European population-based cohorts” https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10654-021-00754-4
  3. Cleveland Clinic (June 2018) “Pregnancy: Does Acetaminophen Heighten Risk for Autism, ADHD?” https://health.clevelandclinic.org/pregnancy-does-acetaminophen-heighten-risks-for-autism-adhd/
  4. Johns Hopkins (November 2019) “Taking Tylenol during pregnancy associated with elevated risks for autism, ADHD” https://hub.jhu.edu/2019/11/05/acetaminophen-pregnancy-autism-adhd/
  5. CDC (March 2020) “What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?” https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html
Last Modified: June 25, 2021

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