Using Antidepressants During Pregnancy Does Not Cause Autism, According To New Study

New research suggests that pregnant women who take antidepressants are more likely to give birth to an autistic child

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. On one hand, treating depression is critical for the mother's wellbeing, and that translates to the baby's health, as well.

The researchers did not find any increased risk of autism, ADHD or reduced fetal growth among exposed offspring. Researchers looked at more than 500 patients with sore throats. The researchers divided the data in several ways, so it may appear there's an increase in autism when taking antidepressants.

Perry Wilson, MD, a MedPage Today physician reviewer and Yale nephrologist, who wasn't involved in the study, said in an exclusive interview that taken together, the results of the three studies do suggest a slightly higher risk of autism in children born to mothers who were taking antidepressants - but the greater the control for confounders, the more tenuous the relationship becomes, and it's not clear if the antidepressants are the cause of the condition. However, for women with depression, the happiness doesn't always set in; instead it's fear of how antidepressants will affect their baby's health.

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. About one in 10 women develop a major depressive episode during pregnancy. It turned out that rates of autism weren't that much different among these brothers and sisters.

However, genetics also likely play a huge part in autism risk, and must be considered, she said.

"From my perspective, the data on antidepressant use during pregnancy in relation to autism risk would not prevent me from prescribing these medicines", he said. Or the fathers' use of antidepressants, either, which is something that the researchers also factored in. "Children who were not exposed in pregnancy had similar autism risk to children who were exposed to antidepressant medication".

At the population level, first-trimester exposure was associated with autism (5.28% of exposed versus 2.14% of unexposed children; HR 2.02 [95% CI 1.8-2.26]).

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", said the second study.

First, siblings who were born after their mothers used antidepressants while pregnant were compared to those born when their mother didn't use the drugs.

Children had a 77 per cent higher risk of being born with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) if their mother used antidepressants before conceiving. "Most analyses rely upon statistical matching to control for differences in factors such as age, race and socioeconomic status". "Very few accounted for the severity of maternal depression, and very few accounted for other medication exposures".

"Based on our meta-analyses, there is a significant association between ASDs and prenatal maternal use of antidepressants".

Dr. Andrew Adesman is chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics for Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. He said the two studies "should provide further reassurance for women to continue taking their antidepressants when pregnant, if that is what their doctor has recommended". That means their results are hard to interpret.

In the new paper published by the USA 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).

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