Antidepressant intake during pregnancy could increase risk of autism in offspring, according to a new study.
The research led by Prof. Anick Berard from the University of Montreal analyzed data on more than 140,000 pregnant women who were taking drugs such as Prozac and Seroxat. The investigators took note of not only antidepressant use, but also they marked which trimester the drugs were taken in and the class of antidepressants being taken.
The study revealed more than 1,000 children were diagnosed with autism at an average age of 5 years. The chance of such a diagnosis was increased by 87 percent among offspring of women who took antidepressants in the last six months of pregnancy.
The use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during the second and third trimester was significantly associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Serotonin is known to influence a number of processes in the developing child, before and after birth. It is involved in cell division, neuro migration, cell differentiation and the creation of new synapses.
“Amongst all the children in the study, we then identified which children had been diagnosed with a form of autism by looking at hospital records indicating diagnosed childhood autism, atypical autism, Asperger’s syndrome, or a pervasive developmental disorder,” said Prof. Berard.
About 20 percent of women struggle with some symptoms of depression during pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetrician and Gynecologists (ACOG). Moreover, depression is a mood disorder that affects 1 in 4 women at some point during their lifetime so it is no surprise when pregnant women have this illness.
This survey adds more information to help guide clinicians and mothers as they decide whether to continue antidepressant treatments into pregnancy. However, doctors are advised to continue prescribing the drugs if they believe the risks of depression outweigh other considerations. IMAGE/iStock