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New Research Links Use of Antidepressants During Pregnancy to Autism

New evidence suggests that Mom’s antidepressant use may be a factor in her child’s autismA woman who takes SSRI antidepressant drugs during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy is about twice as likely to have a child with autism, according to the results of a recent study published in the December 14, 2015 edition of JAMA Pediatrics. SSRI drugs include popular antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft.

Is It Depression or Antidepressant Medication That Leads to Autism?

That was one of the questions that researchers sought to answer in the new study. Researchers examined the records of 145,456 children in a Canadian registry. Medical records of the mothers were available for at least one year prior to each child’s birth and the children were followed for six years from the date of their birth.

The results were as follows:

  • 0.7 percent of children received an autism diagnosis.
  • 1.2 percent of children whose mothers took SSRI drugs during the second or third trimester of pregnancy received an autism diagnosis.
  • 1 percent of children whose mothers took SSRI drugs during the first trimester of pregnancy received an autism diagnosis.
  • Children whose mothers took SSRI drugs while pregnant were 75 percent more likely to develop autism than children whose mothers had a history of depression but did not take SSRI drugs while pregnant.

Dr. Susan Hyman, former chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on autism, was not involved in this study, but she has told the Los Angeles Times that “this was a very well-done study” and that she thinks “what they’ve identified is real.” She cautions parents and doctors, however, from concluding that SSRI is the only reason for autism. Instead, SSRI use during pregnancy may be one factor in this complicated diagnosis.

If you are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant, then it is important to talk to your doctor about options for treating your depression and about protecting your health and the health of your unborn child.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham
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