Antidepressant medication does not increase the risk of autism

November 22, 2013

New research cannot establish a close connection between the use of antidepressant medication - the so-called SSRIs - during the course of pregnancy and the risk of having a child with autism:

"More and more women are given while they are pregnant. And an increasing number of children are diagnosed with . This has given rise to concern over a possible connection. In contrast to other, smaller studies, our survey cannot demonstrate that the risk of having a child with autism is increased by taking antidepressant medication during pregnancy," says PhD Jakob Christensen, researcher at Aarhus University and staff specialist at Aarhus University Hospital.

Previous research has shown that the risk of having a child with autism is up to five times greater for pregnant women who take antidepressant medication.

Largest study of correlation

In a large register study, Jakob Christensen and his colleagues from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital have followed more than 600,000 Danish children born in the period between 1996-2006. The survey is the largest so far undertaken of the correlation between antidepressant medication during pregnancy and autism.

The initial results of the Danish study showed that there was almost a two percent risk of having a child with autism for pregnant women who take antidepressant medication during their pregnancy. For women who do not take antidepressant medication during pregnancy the risk was 1.5 percent. But the researchers also analysed siblings and parents' psychiatric diagnoses. And when these are taken into account the risk is shown to be minimal:

"We know from previous studies that there is an increased risk for autism, among other things, if the parents have a mental diagnosis such as depression. But we cannot demonstrate that the risk is further increased if the mother has received prescription antidepressant medication during the pregnancy," says Jakob Christensen, adding:

"By analysing data for siblings we can see that the risk of having a child with autism is largely the same regardless of whether the mother takes antidepressant medication or not during the pregnancy."

The researchers cannot thereby demonstrate that the medication is to blame for autism in children.

Important knowledge

Many women have prescribed by their general practitioner. Researcher in general practice Mogens Vestergaard believes that the survey also contains important knowledge for general practitioners:

"Most of the people who receive SSRIs get them through their . This was also the case for 80 percent of the women who received antidepressant medication in the study. Of course the results of the survey provide important knowledge for the general practitioners. They are the ones who meet who are nervous about the consequences of taking antidepressant medication during their pregnancy," says Professor Mogens Vestergaard from Aarhus University.

The researchers stress that there may be other risks associated with taking antidepressant medication during . People should therefore contact their medical doctor in any case if they are under medication and considering becoming pregnant, so that they can receive the best possible advice.

The study has just been published in the internationally recognized journal Clinical Epidemiology.

Explore further: Depression in pregnancy: New study shows preferences for therapy over medication

More information: Read the scientific article here: www.dovepress.com/articles.php?article_id=14992

Related Stories

Antidepressant use during pregnancy and high blood pressure

March 22, 2012

Use of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants during pregnancy appears to be linked with increased risk of pregnancy induced high blood pressure ("hypertension"), but a causal link has not been established.

Recommended for you

Autism biomarker seen as boon for new treatments

January 11, 2017

Researchers at the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment have identified a signature brain-wave pattern for children with autism spectrum disorder related to a genetic condition known as Dup15q syndrome. The research ...

Lab confirms vitamin D link to autism traits

December 14, 2016

Researchers at The University of Queensland's Queensland Brain Institute have found a link between vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy and increased autism traits.

Neuromotor problems at the core of autism, study says

December 12, 2016

Rutgers neuroscientists have established that problems controlling bodily movements are at the core of autism spectrum disorders and that the use of psychotropic medications to treat autism in children often makes such neuromotor ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.