Its use by pregnant women could affect their children, study finds.

In one of the more rigorous studies of its kind, researchers have found paracetamol use by pregnant women is linked to a higher risk of autism in their kids.

The finding, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, builds on recent studies in Spain and Denmark that also linked autism with maternal paracetamol use.

Those studies, however, shared a common weakness – they relied on the mothers’ self-reports to calculate total paracetamol use, a technique prone to error.

To sidestep any questions around fallible reporting, the current team, led by paediatrician Xiaobin Wang at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, US, measured paracetamol levels in blood taken from the umbilical cord at birth.

Wang’s group analysed 996 children born to mothers enrolled in the Boston Birth Cohort, a study of single, non-IVF births starting in 1998 and finishing up in 2018.

The original study included more than 3000 mums and babes. Wang’s subset was chosen because there was enough cord blood remaining to do the necessary tests.

In the Boston study children were tracked for up to two decades with tests that, in some cases, included screens for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Wang’s team gathered up those data and got down to work.

Read the full study in Cosmos magazine here