Rollins Researcher Focus of Pediatric Research's Early Investigator Spotlight

August 19, 2019

Melissa Smarr, PhD, assistant professor at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health, has been selected as the focus of Pediatric Research’s Early Investigator Spotlight for the month of August. Smarr is an environmental health scientist whose research examines the influence of environmental factors on reproductive,fetal, and children’s health—particularly among vulnerable populations. As part of this recognition, Smarr and her research are the focus of a podcast episode on the journal’s Pediapod podcast. She has also been profiled on the journal’s website.

Smarr’s recent research, published in the March 2019 issue of Pediatric Research, looked at acetaminophen use among healthy pregnant women and its impact on fetal growth. Over-the-counter medications are used in an estimated 70 percent of pregnancies. Since acetaminophen is included in many of these medications, the researchers wanted to study the potential impact of these drugs on developing fetuses. The researchers followed a cohort of racially diverse healthy pregnant women from 12 U.S. clinical centers throughout their pregnancies. Among the 2,291 women, 932 (or 41 percent) reported using acetaminophen medications.

The researchers didn’t see a difference in the growth rate or health of babies whose mothers had taken acetaminophen versus those who had not. As with all medications, Smarr noted the need to talk with your doctor and to use with caution. 

As she says on the podcast, “I’m not sure that [the population from this study] is generalizable with a lot of the women that are pregnant across the U.S. who are actually developing a lot of complications or going into a pregnancy with a history of a lot of medical complications, which could increase their use of medications or acetaminophen.”