Can paracetamol use in pregnancy cause child asthma?
QShould pregnant women avoid paracetamol, in view of the proposed link with asthma in their offspring?
AThe Avon longitudinal study followed 14,000 pregnancies through to birth and beyond, and their offspring are now aged 10 years1..
Pregnant mothers who used paracetamol on most or all days between the 20th and 32nd week of pregnancy had children twice as likely to wheeze aged three years.
If paracetamol was taken before the 20th week or only on some days, there was no deleterious effect.
However, as only 1 per cent of mothers took paracetamol on most/all days then, as the overall prevalence rate of wheezing was 13 per cent aged three years, only 1 per cent of this 13 per cent can be attributed to excessive paracetamol use. There are therefore far more important factors at work than frequent paracetamol use maternal smoking, for example.
Occasional use of paracetamol during pregnancy is not a problem. If a pregnant woman needs to use paracetamol on most days, there is something potentially amiss and GP/obstetric advice should be sought.
Dr Mark Rosenthal is consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine at the Royal Brompton Hospital, London
1. Shaheen SO et al. Paracetamol use in pregnancy and wheezing in early childhood. Thorax 2002;57:958-963