Antidepressants , Depression , Pregnacy and Autism Link

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A recent report in the Archives of General Psychiatry highlighted a slight increase in the risk of a child developing an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) if the mother takes a type of antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) during pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester, reports Science Daily.

The connection

According to the authors of the report, the number of autistic spectrum disorders has increased over recent years along with a rise in the number of women using anti depressant medication during pregnancy.

Naturally, this prompted concerns that exposure to antidepressants during pregnancy could increase the risk of an autistic spectrum disorder.

Medical records examined

Professor Lisa Croen of Kaiser Permanente Northern California and her colleagues studied the medical records of almost 300 children with ASD and over 1500 ‘control’ children who were involved in the Childhood Autism Perinatal Study. They also examined the medical records of the mothers.

Out of the 300 children with ASD, twenty mothers had been prescribed antidepressants, 13 of whom had received SSRIs only, 2 who had received a combination of SSRIs and another antidepressant and 5 who had received a non SSRI only.

Of the 1500 control group 50 mothers had been prescribed at least one antidepressant, half of these had received an SSRI only, 9 had been prescribed a combination of SSRIs and another antidepressant, and 16 had received a non SSRI only.

More than twice as likely

After making adjustments for maternal and birth factors, the researchers found that mothers of children with an autistic spectrum disorder were twice as likely to have been prescribed at least one anti depressant in the year before the child’s birth.

When the researchers compared this with women who had no anti depressants prescribed during the twelve month period up to the child’s birth, they found that women who had received a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) were more than twice as likely to have a child diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder later on.

The same association was not seen for women who had a received an antidepressant but not an SSRI.

“Although the number of children exposed prenatally to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in this population was low, results suggest that exposure, especially during the first trimester, may modestly increase the risk of ASD,” the authors conclude.

More studies needed

The researchers recommend that their findings be treated with caution pending results from more studies designed to “address the very complex question of whether prenatal exposure to SSRIs may be etiologically linked to later diagnoses of ASDs in offspring.”

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1 Comment

  1. Cordelia Hanley
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I have seen similar stories on CNN.com and health reports stating that there may be a link to autism and antidepressant use in women who were pregnant at the time. Has anyone else seen or heard this?
    Thanks!

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