Researchers say “women shouldn’t be alarmed” as new research reveals a potential link between health during pregnancy and later signs of depression in children.
The University of Auckland study looked at 3,925 eight-year-old children and their mothers who are part of a larger research known as About Growing Up in New Zealand.
After analyzing the data collected from the group, the University of Auckland found four lifestyle and pregnancy health factors that appeared to be predictive of later signs of depression in children, one of which included paracetamol, a widely used drug.
Other factors included obesity or overweight, smoking, and stress.
The information came after interviewing mothers during pregnancy and, eight years later, quizzing children on signs including low mood, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping.
Most of the mothers took paracetamol, and the study showed a “small but significant” statistical association.
International scientists from the journal Nature Reviews Endocrinology have confirmed this claim. They said the combined weight of animal and human scientific evidence was strong enough for pregnant women to be warned by medical professionals against its indiscriminate use.
However, they also acknowledged there was a risk to mother and baby if pain or fever were not controlled.
“We recognize that there are limited medical alternatives.”
Karen Waldie, a psychology professor at the University of Auckland who analyzed the data, said she supported the comment.
“Women shouldn’t be alarmed, but mounting evidence suggests that it may be wise to use as low a dose of paracetamol as possible for the shortest possible duration during pregnancy,” says the Professor Waldie, of the School of Psychology of the Faculty of Science.
The study fuels research around the world on how exposure to certain nutrients and chemicals during pregnancy can affect children’s development.
“Existing research in the United States indicates that depression affects around 1% of preschoolers and 2% of children,” Professor Waldie said.