Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy Increases Autism Risk

Women who take antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy may be at an increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder, according to a recent studyResearchers found that children who were exposed to SSRIs the most had the highest incidence of autism.

“We found prenatal SSRI exposure was almost three times as likely in boys with autism spectrum disorders relative to typical development, with the greatest risk when exposure is during the first trimester,” study co-author Li-Ching Lee, an associate scientist in the department of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland, told Counsel and Heal.

For the study, researchers collected data from 966 mother and child pairs to better understand how SSRIs affect pregnancy outcomes. Of the children studied, 800 were boys. Nearly 500 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, 154 had some form of developmental delay and 320 had developed typically.

The SSRIs examined in the study were Celexa, Lezapro, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft.

Researchers found that in the autism group, 5.9 percent of the pregnancies were exposed to SSRIs. In the delayed developmental group, 5.2 percent of the pregnancies were exposed to SSRIs. They also found that exposure rate in the typically developing children group was 3.4 percent.

Investigators said that in terms of gender, boys were three times more likely to have autism if they were exposed to the antidepressants during the first trimester.

Given their findings, researchers said they hope expecting mothers consult with their doctors before taking antidepressants during pregnancy.

“It’s a complex decision whether to treat or not treat depression with medications during pregnancy,” Lee said. “There are so many factors to consider. We didn’t intend for our study to be used as a basis for clinical treatment decisions. Women should talk with their doctors about SSRI treatments.”

Source: University herald