Can Consumption Of Antidepressants During Pregnancy Cause Autism In Children?

Alex Mares-Manton—Getty Images  Asia Images RM

"Balancing the risks and benefits of using antidepressants during pregnancy is an extremely hard decision that every woman should make in consultation with her doctor", he said.

In the new paper published by the US journal JAMA Pediatrics, Antonia Mezzacappa of the Bicetre University in France and colleagues reviewed and analyzed 10 studies that have explored associations between fetal exposure to antidepressants and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

Pregnant women who take antidepressants are more likely to give birth to autistic children, new research suggests.

Note that two observational studies, one in Canada and one in Sweden, found no link between maternal SSRI use during pregnancy and autism spectrum disorder after multivariable adjustment.

"The findings from this review suggest that antidepressant treatment may be a "marker" of women who may have an elevated risk of giving birth to a child with ASD", Petersen said.

Brian D'Onofrio, director of clinical training in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University and a co-author of one of the JAMA papers, says that studies on antidepressants and autism haven't been able to distinguish the effects of the drugs from the effects of depression.

Researchers studied over one million infants born in Sweden over 16 years. But they also did an analysis considering whether the children's fathers had taken antidepressants during pregnancy.

"Regardless of whether associations between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism spectrum disorder reflect drug effects or risks inherent to maternal mental health, efforts should focus on how best to promote optimal child health in ways that harness a child's inherent developmental plasticity", Oberlander said.

Second, we compared children of women who used antidepressants before pregnancy but not during or after pregnancy to children of women who used antidepressants during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The analysis included matching moms who took antidepressants against those who didn't based on a series of 500 different variables in their life and health, Vigod said. Some studies appeared to show a connection, while others showed none.

Maternal depression is considered a risk factor for developmental disorders, like autism and ADHD. It also incorporated data reporting the country's antidepressant prescriptions in adults, autism and ADHD diagnoses in children, genetic relationships between parents and children, parents' age and education levels, and other factors.

Pregnant women are often concerned about their baby's health and autism is perhaps one of the leading causes of worry for any mother to be.

A majority of the antidepressants examined in the study were selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, more commonly known as SSRIs, which are the most common type of antidepressants.

"These results are consistent with the hypothesis that genetic factors, familial environmental factors, or both account for the population-wide associations between first-trimester antidepressant exposure and these outcomes", the authors write. D'Onofrio says their findings point to other issues besides medication. However, after adjusting for pregnancy, maternal, and paternal traits, the researchers found that exposed and unexposed siblings were at equal risk.

Scientists still do not fully understand what causes autism, though both genetics and environment are believed to play a role. The study was divided into two segments: to determine if the association between antidepressants and autism can be explained by comparing siblings, and time of exposure. "Many of us have started to look at longer term child outcomes related to antidepressant exposure because mothers want to know about that in the decision-making process", says Vigod, of Women's College Hospital in Toronto.

Related News: