Use of antidepressants during pregnancy increases risk of Autism

A new study has revealed that use of antidepressants during pregnancy increases the risk of autism in children by almost two times. During the study that had more than 140,000 expecting women as participants, scientists found that taking drugs like Seroxat and Prozac during the 2nd and 3rd trimester increases the possibilities of such disorders significantly.

The researchers said that the exact factors responsible for such consequences of using antidepressants have not yet been identified, but it’s biologically plausible that these drugs could affect the development of the unborn baby’s brain at an extremely critical stage.

Present NHS advice asks pregnant women to stay away from such drugs as they have been found to cause miscarriage and a range of health problems in the unborn child. Doctors, however, have the permission of continuing to prescribe the drugs if they feel that the expecting woman’s chances of developing debilitating depression symptoms outweigh all other considerations.

Due to the rules mentioned above, still around 20,000 pregnant women take such drugs every year.

The study finding links between use of antidepressants during pregnancy and autism was conducted by researchers representing the University of Montreal. During the study, the researchers followed a total of 145,456 pregnancies and kids till the age of 10 years.

It was found that as many as 1,054 children, with an average age of 4 and half years, got diagnosed with autism. Additionally, the study revealed that chance of such diagnoses was 87% higher among offspring of mothers who used antidepressants during the final six months of their pregnancy.

Here, it must be mentioned that previous studies came up with inconsistent evidence linking the use of antidepressants during pregnancy with autism in kids.

For instance, a 2011 study conducted in California suggested that use of SSRIs by pregnant women might double the chances of autism in children. However, another study conducted a couple of years later showed that such risks can be eliminated almost completely if the researchers adjust for occurrence of underlying depression in the mothers.

Prof. Anick Bérard, one of the members of the research team conducting the study, said that in spite of findings links between antidepressant use in pregnant women and autism, they have not yet managed to find the causes of this association. She, however, added that environment and genetics might have a role to play.