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article imageNo autism link to prenatal exposure to antidepressants

By Tim Sandle     Apr 23, 2017 in Science
One concern is that mothers who take antidepressants while pregnant go on to have children who develop autism. A new scientific study disproves this.
Concerns with prenatal exposure to antidepressants also extend to the risk that kids will develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, in addition to the risk of having a condition that falls on along the autism spectrum. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder characterized by problems paying attention, excessive activity, or difficulty controlling behavior which is not appropriate for a person's age. Autism is a different type of neurodevelopmental disorder, one characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior. Earlier research has suggested that the use of antidepressants came with its own developmental risks:  autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, premature birth and poor fetal growth.
In relation to these disorders, two new large studies may provide reassurance to pregnant women with depression that the conditions are not linked with the taking of antidepressants. Both studies have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
One study has come from researcher Brian D’Onofrio of Indiana University Bloomington. Here researchers examined over 1.5 million Swedish children born between 1996 and 2012. The children were born to some 950,000 mothers. With the mothers, 22,000 of them said they took antidepressants while pregnant (commonly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Taking these data, Science News notes that the scientists compared siblings in families where the mother used antidepressants in one pregnancy but not the other. This showed no correlation.
See: "Associations of Maternal Antidepressant Use During the First Trimester of Pregnancy With Preterm Birth, Small for Gestational Age, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Offspring."
In the second study, Simone Vigod examined mothers in Ontario, Canada between the years 2002 to 2010. These women gave birth to 35,906 children. Eight percent of the women who gave birth took antidepressants. The Canadian researchers used a similar approach to the scientists from Sweden: they compared exposed children to their unexposed siblings, with the outcome that there was no association between autism risk and antidepressant use.
See: "Association Between Serotonergic Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy and Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children."
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