Antidepressants May Increase Autism Risk in Newborns

Chaffin Luhana LLP warns women of childbearing age that antidepressants used during pregnancy may increase the risk of autism in children. That’s according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, which looked at the potential association between parental depression and maternal antidepressant use during pregnancy with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in offspring.

There is already some evidence that using certain antidepressants during pregnancy may increase the risk of giving birth to a child with birth defects, said partner Eric Chaffin. Now we have new research indicating a possible connection between antidepressant use and an increased risk of autism. It highlights the need to have really clear discussions going on between expectant mothers and their doctors about the best approach for managing depression during pregnancy.

For the study, Swedish researchers looked at data from the Swedish medical birth register and other publicly funded sources that screen for autism disorders. After taking other factors into account, including family income, education level, and age of the parents, the authors found that exposure to both selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants and monoamine reuptake inhibitors (tricyclic antidepressants) was associated with a slight increased risk of ASDs in newborns.

This isn’t the first study to suggest such a possible association between the medication and the disorder. In July 2011, research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry examined 300 children with diagnosed autism spectrum disorder. Scientists reported that children whose mothers took Zoloft, Prozac, or similar antidepressants during pregnancy were twice as likely as other children to have a diagnosis of autism or a related disorder.

Although the number of children exposed prenatally to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in this population was low, the authors wrote, results suggest that exposure, especially during the first trimester, may modestly increase the risk of ASD.

According to the Autism Society, ASD is the fastest-growing developmental disability, with a prevalence of about one in 88 births. That makes studies like these potentially even more concerning.