Study: Taking Antidepressants During Pregnancy May Result In Autistic Child

A study revealed on Monday shows women who take particular common antidepressants while with child may face nearly twice the risk of giving birth to a child with autism. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the findings are based on Canadian records of more than 145,000 pregnancies.

Researchers found an 87% higher risk of autism when women took antidepressant medications in the latter part of their pregnancy — a crucial time for brain development in the fetus.

“Our study has established that taking antidepressant during the second or third trimester of pregnancy almost doubles the risk that the child will be diagnosed with autism by age seven, especially if the mother takes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs),” reported lead author Anick Berard, who is an expert on pharmaceutical safety during pregnancy at the University of Montreal.

SSRis are the most commonly prescribed anti-depressants. They include brand names such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. Researchers claim their findings are important because as many as 10% of pregnant women are currently being treated with antidepressants.

However, Emily Simonoff, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at King’s College London, said more research is needed in order to better understand the study’s implications.

“The current findings should not lead to a blanket change in policy,” she stated. “All pregnant women, as well as those planning a pregnancy, who are taking SSRIs should discuss the therapeutic options with their doctor, bearing in mind that the present findings do not necessarily indicate a causal role of the medication.”

Furthermore, despite researchers finding an 87% higher risk of autism when antidepressants were taken in mid to late pregnancy, they observed no association between the use of the medication in the first trimester or the year before pregnancy and the risk of autism. Researches also said more work is needed to understand whether antidepressants play a role in causing autism as their study was observational in nature.

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Regina is a Fine Arts graduate who expresses herself through various mediums. She finds amusement in pop culture, enjoys video games, and watches way too many YouTube videos on a daily basis.