Study eases concerns about antidepressants, pregnancy and autism risk

"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.

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

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.

"To our knowledge, this is one of the strongest studies to show that exposure to antidepressants during early pregnancy is not associated with autism, ADHD, or poor fetal growth when taking into account the factors that lead to medication use in the first place", lead study author Dr. Brian D'Onofrio, a professor at the IU Bloomington Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, said in a statement.

In the first study, which is thought to be the largest and most comprehensive on the topic, researchers at Indiana University, in collaboration with researchers in Sweden, observed more than 1.5 million Swedish babies born between 1996 and 2012 to mothers who, in some cases, took antidepressants in the first trimester. And, third, we assessed the risk of the outcomes among children of fathers who took antidepressants during the first trimester of pregnancy. All of these uses were found to be associated with increased risk for autism, ADHD and poor fetal growth.

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

Link Between Antidepressant Consumption And Autism?

Maternal depression is considered a risk factor for developmental disorders, like autism and ADHD.

In another study in the same issue of JAMA, Dr. Simone Vigod from the Women's College Research Institute and her team came to a similar conclusion after carefully looking for other possible connections between antidepressants and autism. 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. Therefore, the link between antidepressants and autism is not due to exposure to antidepressants during pregnancy, but to other factors, researchers said. Researchers said that 82 percent of the antidepressants examined in the study were common selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Prozac or Zoloft.

Gressier and colleagues write in JAMA Pediatrics that up to 15 percent of women have depression during pregnancy.

"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 wrote.

Both Vigod and D'Onofrio said their findings do not close the book on this debate.

The researchers compared siblings in families where the mother used antidepressants in one pregnancy but not the other. This suggests that the antidepressants weren't the major contributor to the autism, and that something else in the children's experience-like their genetics or the environment in which they were raised, which could include the effect of their mother's depression on their development-played a greater role than the drugs. "But that association goes completely away when you compare siblings".

Women should continue to take their antidepressants when pregnant, and consult their doctor for further counseling to control other relevant autism risk factors.

For example, a genetic overlap exists in people who have depression and people who have autism.

Vanessa Coleman

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