AUTISM WARNING: Pregnant women who take antidepressants found to have 81% higher chance of autistic children

Taking antidepressants before and during pregnancy may raise the odds of autism spectrum disorder in children, a recent review showed.  The study found that children born to mothers who took antidepressants during pregnancy had an 81% increased odds of developing autism. The researchers also found that children born to women who took antidepressants before pregnancy had a 77% likelihood of developing autism. As part of the analysis, French researchers examined six studies with a total cohort population of 117,737 participants and compared them with people without autism.

According to the analysis, up to 15% of women experience depression during pregnancy. The researchers also noted that antidepressant-use among pregnant women around the world showed an upswing in the last few years. Women with untreated depression were at an increased risk of developing complications including diabetes and hypertension, the researchers added.

However, outside expert Carol Povey cautioned that pregnant women should not immediately stop antidepressant treatment. Povey is the current director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism. “We urge people not to jump to conclusions about this study, which brings together findings from previous research. It’s therefore vital that no-one bases any decisions about their care on these findings alone. Any mothers-to-be who are concerned about the best treatment for depression should discuss this with their doctor,” Povey said in an article in

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

More studies link antidepressants to autism onset

The recent findings coincide with a number of previous studies that demonstrate a link between antidepressant treatment and autism onset. A 2015 study revealed that taking serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy increased the risk of autism in children. To assess this, researchers pooled data from the Quebec Pregnancy Cohort and found that SSRI intake during the second and/or third trimester of pregnancy was associated with the onset of autism in unborn children. “Some classes of antidepressants work by inhibiting serotonin (SSRIs and some other antidepressant classes), which will have a negative impact on the ability of the brain to fully develop and adapt in utero,” said lead researcher Prof. Anick Bérard in The findings were published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Another study revealed that prenatal exposure to antidepressants may raise the odds of autism. To assess this, researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed data of more than 5,400 children. The study revealed that autism spectrum disorder was more common among children born to mothers who took antidepressants during pregnancy compared with the control group. The results were published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

A 2013 study also found that in utero exposure to both SSRIs and non-selective monoamine reuptake inhibitors was tied to autism onset in children. However, researchers said the study did not show a causal relationship between antidepressant treatment and autism. Further studies are needed to verify the findings, the researchers wrote in BMJ.

Furthermore, a 2011 study also showed that prenatal exposure to SSRIs may lead to the development of autism in children. To carry out the study, researchers pooled data from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in North Carolina. According to the study, maternal depression was linked to higher risk of autism in childrren. However, paternal depression did not appear to increase the risk.

The study also revealed that children born to mothers who took serotonin reuptake inhibitors at one year before delivery were twice as likely to develop autism. The risk of autism onset was more pronounced when the mothers took SSRIs during the first trimester of pregnancy, the researchers said. The findings were published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. (Related: Know more about other potential health risks associated with antidepressants at



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