Study casts doubt on autism, antidepressant link

Risk assessment The risk of autism associated with antidepressants if it exists

In an uncontrolled analysis - which did not take these factors into account - antidepressant use in early pregnancy was associated with 1.5 times higher odds for premature birth, 1.2 times higher odds for fetal growth, 2.0 times higher risk for autism and 2.2 times increased risk for ADHD.

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

Two studies published by JAMA have examined the risk of autism and other adverse birth outcomes among women who use antidepressants during pregnancy.

The study also looked at antidepressant use in fathers, as well as mothers' use of antidepressants before but not during pregnancy.

She told the Business Standard: '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.

"The fact that we got consistent answers when we used all of these designs gives us more confidence in our conclusion", said Brian D'Onofrio, senior author of the study and professor at Indiana University.

The study followed more than 1.5 million infants from Sweden over a 12-year period so researchers could control for a number of factors.

"The additional comparisons provide further evidence that other factors - not first-trimester exposure to antidepressants - explain why women who took these medications during early pregnancy were more likely to have offspring with these pregnancy and neurodevelopmental problems", D'Onofrio 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.

Kids exposed to antidepressants in the womb and their unexposed siblings had essentially the same risk for developing autism, a new study shows.

'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.

"Although a causal relationship can not be ruled out, the previously observed association may be explained by other factors", the study stated. But some studies have shown that being exposed to antidepressants in utero can contribute to an increase in developmental conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism. About one in 10 women develop a major depressive episode during pregnancy. 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.

The findings are concerning given the increasing usage of the medications during pregnancy, experts say. "But that association goes completely away when you compare siblings".

Dr Patrick O'Brien, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, previously said: 'Depression in pregnancy can be very serious for a woman and can also impact on the health of her baby, so we must consider the benefits of antidepressant medication in such cases. For example, researchers should collect data on - among other things - the mothers' depression during pregnancy, depression severity, if the mothers are taking their medications, the dose of the medication and use of other substances.

"It's known that autism and depression and anxiety and other psychiatric illnesses share some genetic components", Vigod said. Women battling depression during pregnancy can often carry the burden that they did something wrong, hence why their child has autism.

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