The research, which uses prescription data on painkillers; does support earlier findings that women taking paracetamol during pregnancy are more likely to have children who develop asthma. However, it also suggests that the painkillers are not the cause of this increase. Should give women reassurance to take painkillers during pregnancy when they are by a doctor.
Professor Shaheen was the first scientist to discover a link between paracetamol use during pregnancy; an increase in the risk of asthma in children.”This link has now seen in a number of studies in different countries, but until now there has very little research on the use of other painkillers during pregnancy and the subsequent risk of asthma in children.
The paracetamol and asthma
“They also do not know whether the link between paracetamol and asthma is causal; in other words, they do not know whether paracetamol use in pregnancy per se is leading to more asthma; or whether some other factor is at play. The only way to be sure would carry out a trial where pregnant women are randomly to either take paracetamol or not, but there are obvious ethical problems with this approach.”
To get around this problem; Professor Shaheen and his colleagues studied 492,999 Swedish mothers and their children. They looked at data on prescriptions for different types of painkillers during pregnancy and compared this with rates of asthma diagnosis in the children.
They found that children born to mothers who prescribed paracetamol during pregnancy did have an increased risk of asthma, but the risk was similar when women had been prescribed opioids (such as codeine and tramadol) or migraine medication. For example, the increase in risk for asthma at five years of age was 50% for paracetamol, 42% for codeine and 48% for migraine medication.
Painkillers to pregnant
“If that’s the case then it is important to manage chronic pain during pregnancy and they should not avoid prescribing painkillers to pregnant women when they are needed. Similarly, women should feel reassured that infrequent use of paracetamol in pregnancy; which is commonly obtained over the counter and is the painkiller to take in pregnancy; is unlikely to cause asthma in their offspring. Their study also suggests that a clinical trial of paracetamol during pregnancy; which poses many challenges, is probably not worthwhile.
Paracetamol is the most painkiller in pregnancy; so it is important to know whether it might a cause of childhood asthma. Previous research suggested these two were linked in some way; but this large study suggests that this may not a simple cause and effect relationship, and this means that paracetamol should prescribed to pregnant women who need it. However, They also need to continue studying the complex reasons why so many children develop asthma.