By Dr. Adam Urato
On Friday, a new study was released in the British Medical Journal showing that antidepressant use during pregnancy is associated with autism in the exposed children. This is now the second study within the last two years showing this link and it adds to the accumulating evidence of potential harm associated with the use of antidepressants during pregnancy.The study was a case-control study from Sweden, which was fairly large: it looked at 4,429 cases of autism spectrum disorder and compared these cases to 43,277 matched controls. The researchers found that antidepressant use during pregnancy, with either SSRIs or nonselective monoamine reuptake inhibitors (another type of antidepressant) was associated with an increased rate of autism spectrum disorders in the offspring. The odds ratio was high at 3.34, which roughly means that antidepressant use was associated with more than a tripling of risk of autism in the children.
The study concludes:
In utero exposure to both SSRIs and non-selective monoamine reuptake inhibitors (tricyclic antidepressants) was associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders, particularly without intellectual disability. Whether this association is causal or reflects the risk of autism with severe depression during pregnancy requires further research. However, assuming causality, antidepressant use during pregnancy is unlikely to have contributed significantly towards the dramatic increase in observed prevalence of autism spectrum disorders as it explained less than 1% of cases.
These results do not surprise those of us who have been following the scientific studies in this area over the past two decades. Continue reading