Antidepressants Linked to Autism?

SSRI prescription during pregnancy may be associated with autism

July 10, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Taking antidepressant during the first three months of pregnancy could pose an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder for newborns. According to autism experts, women who take antidepressants should seek advice from their doctor or therapist.

Exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, known as SSRIs, such as Zoloft or Lexapro, could increase the chances that a child will have autism, according to a study from the Autism Resarch Program at Kaiser Permanente.

After analyzing the mother’s medical history and use of antidepressants, the researchers found that mothers of children diagnosed with some form of autism were twice as likely to have an antidepressant prescription in the year prior to giving birth and were three times more likely to have an SSRI prescription in her first trimester.

"Antidepressants might not be safe for your unborn baby."

These results suggest a small but important risk to the unborn child, said study lead author Lisa Croen, director of the Autism Research Program at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. But this risk must be weighed against the risk of having a mother with untreated depression, Croen said.

This study is the first to examine a possible association between SSRI antidepressants and autism risk. Prior research has suggested that problems in serotonin levels could play a role in autism.

Maternal stress and depression also could contribute to the risk, researchers said.

The study appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry.