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article imageTaking an antidepressant while pregnant increases autism chances

By Marcus Hondro     Dec 15, 2015 in Health
Canadian researchers released results of a study on taking antidepressants during pregnancy and it raises concerns. They found woman have a far higher chance of having a child who will be diagnosed as autistic if they take antidepressants while pregnant.
Pregnancy and antidepressants
The study, from the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine Children's Hospital, found that women who take antidepressants during the second or third trimester of their pregnancy have over double the chance of having their baby diagnosed with autism by age seven than women who do not take antidepressants during pregnancy.
The lead author of the study, Prof. Anick Bérard and her team reached their conclusions after studying data gathered in the Quebec Pregnancy Cohort on 145,456 children; data was collected on the children from conception all the way up to the age of 10.
"We defined exposure to antidepressants as the mother having had one or more prescription for antidepressants filled during the second or third trimester of the pregnancy. This period was chosen as the infant's critical brain development occurs during this time," Prof. Bérard said.
"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.
"Finally, we looked for a statistical association between the two groups, and found a very significant one: an 87 percent increased risk."
Autism research
Six to 10 percent of pregnant women are being treated with antidepressants. Leaving a pregnant woman experiencing depression untreated is something many doctors do not do as studies have shown depression in the mother can lead to neuro-developmental disorders (impaired growth and development of the brain) in the baby.
So the results of Prof.Bérard's study appears to leave doctors in a bind when it comes to treating depressed pregnant women. Prof. Bérard said more study needs to be done and that there are certain to be other causes of autism beyond an expectant mother taking an antidepressant.
"The causes of autism are still not well understood," Prof. Bérard told CTV News. "There's probably a strong genetic component. There is also probably a strong epigenetic effect, meaning an effect of genetics combined with the environment.
"Here, we've looked at one environmental exposure," she added. "The antidepressants."
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