Studies find no evidence for autism link to antidepressant use

Research by Indiana University found no increase in developmental disorders among fetuses exposed to antidepressants during early pregnancy

The low fetal growth risk increased1.2 times, the risk of autism was 2 times higher, and the risk of ADHD increased 2.2 times. Researchers looked at more than 500 patients with sore throats.

The increased risk for premature birth was found after controlling for other factors that affect health, such as a mother's age at childbearing, in siblings whose mothers used antidepressants during one pregnancy but not during another pregnancy.

A sibling analysis in Sweden led by Brian D'Onofrio, PhD, of the Indiana University Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, showed that, by age 15, the cumulative risk of autism was 5.52% for children whose mothers used antidepressants during their first trimester and 4.55% for those whose mothers did not (HR 0.83, 95% CI 0.62-1.13).

Expectant mothers who take prozac or similar antidepressants while pregnant are not putting their children at increased risk of autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a large scale study has found.

Previous studies have shown that women with untreated depression are at higher risk of potentially deadly birth complications.

In the other study, researchers in the US and Sweden observed more than 1.5 million Swedish babies whose mothers self-reported antidepressant use during the first trimester. He and his colleagues parsed the data in different ways to tease out the effects of the drug from the effects of other autism contributors. Autism rates were not all different among brothers and sisters, according to the researchers. The women gave birth to 35,906 children; in 2,837 of those pregnancies, almost 8 percent, the women took antidepressants, also primarily selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Or the fathers' use of antidepressants, either, which is something that the researchers also factored in.

Again, the researchers found no link between antidepressants taken by the mother and neurodevelopmental problems for the child. "But when you try to account for all the other factors that could help explain that association, like comparing siblings and looking at the timing of the exposure, the association went away".

When all the other factors were accounted for, the association was no longer strong.

"Although a causal relationship can not be ruled out, the previously observed association may be explained by other factors", the study stated.

When the researchers compared unconnected children and controlling for external factors, they found that the premature birth risk rose 1.4 times, while low fetal growth risk increased 1.1 times, and ADHD and autism risks increased 1.6 times.

He added that most analyses depend on "statistical matching to control for differences in factors such as age, race and socioeconomic status".

These uses were associated with increased risk for autism, ADHD and poor fetal growth - providing evidence that family factors, such as genetics or environmental factors, influence these outcomes, as opposed to antidepressant use during pregnancy.

'Although it's useful to have this overview, as the authors recognise, the data linking antidepressants to autism is far from conclusive and the results are hard to interpret.

In the final study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, Dr. Florence Gressier from University of Paris-Sud, in France, agrees that better studies are needed on the topic.

But two studies have found that the cause may be not the drug itself but something else linked to depression. That means their results are hard to interpret.

Taking antidepressants while you're pregnant probably doesn't increase your child's risk of developing autism, new research suggests.

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