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Healthcare providers consider acetaminophen (Tylenol) the safest over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer to take when you're pregnant. Acetaminophen has been widely used for decades, and extensive research shows that it's safe to take during pregnancy.
However, no medication is considered 100 percent safe. Researchers are currently studying whether taking acetaminophen during pregnancy might lead to:
- Behavioral problems. A few studies suggest that taking acetaminophen during pregnancy – particularly in large amounts or in late pregnancy – might be connected to behavioral problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and hyperkinetic disorders in children. However more research is needed.
- Asthma. Research suggests using acetaminophen during pregnancy might be linked to asthma in children. But again, more research is needed to figure out whether the effect is due to acetaminophen or other factors, such as the mother's illness or condition she treated with acetaminophen. One study followed children up to six years after birth and didn't find a connection between asthma and their mothers' use of acetaminophen during pregnancy, but that study period might have been too short to draw any conclusions.
- Cryptorchidism. In this condition, one or both testicles don't descend, and some research indicates that exposure to acetaminophen – especially during the first two trimesters and for more than four weeks – makes it more likely for boys to be born with cryptorchidism. Other studies don't show such a connection, however.
Experts don't believe these possible risks are any reason not to take acetaminophen if you need pain relief during pregnancy, but talk with your healthcare provider, especially if you need it frequently.
When you're pregnant, it's always a good idea to take as little medication as possible, so be careful not to take more than the recommended dosages and total daily amount. Taking too much acetaminophen risks injuring your liver and, later in pregnancy, your baby's liver.
Also, check with your healthcare provider before taking any multi-symptom remedies, such as Tylenol Cold + Flu Severe. These multi-symptom formulas contain other medications in addition to acetaminophen, and some over-the-counter medications may not be safe to take during pregnancy.
Also be sure to talk with your provider before using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These include:
- Sodium salicylate
Depending on which trimester you're in, these might not be the best choice for pain relief.
Note: If you have hepatitis A, B, or C, your healthcare provider probably will recommend you take no more than 2 grams (four 500 mg tablets) of acetaminophen a day – and only for a few days. Do not take acetaminophen at all if you have advanced, complicated cirrhosis.
Learn which over-the-counter medicines are safe to take during pregnancy.