Using antidepressants during pregnancy greatly increases the risk of autism, Professor Anick Berard of the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine children’s hospital revealed. Prof. Berard, an internationally renowned expert in the fields of pharmaceutical safety during pregnancy, came to her conclusions after reviewing data covering 145,456 pregnancies. ‘The variety of causes of autism remain unclear, but studies have shown that both genetics and environment can play a role,’ she explained. ‘Our study has established that taking antidepressants during the second or third trimester of pregnancy almost doubles the risk that the child will be diagnosed with autism by age 7, especially if the mother takes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, often known by its acronym SSRIs.’
Berard and her colleagues worked with data from the Quebec Pregnancy Cohort and studied 145,456 children between the time of their conception up to age ten. In addition to information about the mother’s use of antidepressants and the child’s eventual diagnosis of autism, the data included a wealth of details that enabled the team to tease out the specific impact of the antidepressant drugs. For example, some people are genetically predisposed to autism (i.e., a family history of it.) Maternal age, and depression are known to be associated with the development of autism, as are certain socio-economic factors such as being exposed to poverty, and the team was able to take all of these into consideration.
‘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. Berard 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% increased risk.’ The results remained unchanged when only considering children who had been diagnosed by specialists such as psychiatrists and neurologists.
The findings are hugely important as six to ten percent of pregnant women are currently being treated for depression with antidepressants.
University of Montreal http://tinyurl.com/zgflp3h