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Health: Acetaminophen Warning For Pregnant Women

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Acetaminophen is being linked to ADHD, according to a new study released today.  3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl is here with more about the growing number of problems associated with the popular over-the-counter pain reliever.

Several lawsuits are pending in Philadelphia and South Jersey.  People claiming acetaminophen caused serious injuries, even death.

And now a new concern involving pregnant women taking the drug.

Acetaminophen is the most commonly used medication for pain and fever during pregnancy.  It's been used by millions of women.  Now new research says the popular pain reliever might be linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"Medication that we thought was fairly safe to use during pregnancy for pain relief actually might increase the chance of a child to later develop ADHD," said Dr. Beate Ritz, the study's author.

Scientists looked at data from a 17 year study that followed 64,000 mothers and children in Denmark.  They found the link to ADHD was strongest the longer a woman took acetaminophen into the second and third trimester.  And they saw an increase in the more severe form called Hyperkinetic disorder.

"It is repeated use.  It's long term use during pregnancy," said Dr. Ritz.

Over half of the pregnant women in the study took acetaminophen.  For the children who developed ADHD, symptoms appeared around age seven.

Thirty-eight-year-old Rebecca Barragan is due in August with her second child.

"I would probably steer clear from it while I'm pregnant, you know, and power through a headache or any bit of pain that I would have," said Rebecca.

Doctors say there's been mounting evidence about potential risks with acetaminophen, especially when taken in excess.  But more research is needed.

And everyone, especially pregnant women, are advised to talk to their doctors before taking it.

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