For many years now researchers have been trying to figure out what might cause autism in children. New research shows the cause might be the antidepressants that many mothers take.
CBS news reports on the link between autism and antidepressants.
Many doctors prescribe women antidepressants during pregnancy. But research shows that antidepressant use during the second or third trimester might lead the baby to develop autism.
Autism is a complex disease that is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors, in different ways.
The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It looked at the development of babies whose mothers took SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
One of the study authors, Anick Bérard, PhD, a professor at the University of Montreal's Faculty of Pharmacy and a researcher at the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center, who specializes in the field of pharmaceutical safety during pregnancy, commented on the study. He said, “This is the group most used in the population in general and also during pregnancy. We're talking about Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, the most used antidepressants.”
The study was extremely comprehensive.
Researchers looked at data from 145,000 children between conception to the age of 10. They also looked at the mother’s use of antidepressants and when the child was diagnosed with autism. Many of the children were diagnosed when they were between four and five years old.
CBS reports, “After comparing those exposed to antidepressants in utero during the second or third trimester to those who weren't, the researchers found an 87 percent increased risk of autism.”
Autism has also been believed to result from genetic and environmental factors until now. Researchers are also looking into whether the antidepressants increase the risk or the depression itself.
The safety of taking antidepressants during pregnancy has been a question for many women for decades now; but leaving depression during pregnancy untreated is also a problem.
Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, commented on the findings. He said he would continue to prescribe anti-depressants to pregnant women who need them. Dr. Manevitz also told CBS, "Over the years I've worked with many obstetricians and we have to decide for each individual person what the risk/benefit ratio is.”
Some doctors are urging women who have mild to moderate depression to get psychotherapy alone rather than turning to antidepressants, especially while pregnant.