Use of Antidepressants During Pregnancy and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder

To determine the correlation between the use of antidepressants during pregnancy and the child being born with autism spectrum disorder, a group of researchers looked at infant and mother data in Quebec from 1998 to 2009. From looking at his data, they collected 145,546 infants born to mothers who were covered by Regie de l’assurance maladie du Quebec for at least a year prior to and throughout their entire pregnancy. They determined that use of an antidepressant was established by the filling of at least one prescription throughout their pregnancy. By the end of their study, with the children having a mean age of six, 1,054 children had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The women who had used antidepressants, specifically those using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in the second or third trimester, had a much higher frequency of giving birth to a child whom would be diagnosed with at least one diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

Identifying a potential cause or contributor to the autism spectrum disorder can create a great sense of caution among future mothers. When making people aware of the concern and issue of using antidepressants, it becomes a much stronger argument when you have data and research to back up the claim. Hopefully in the future, mothers will become more aware of their impact on children with the prescription medications they take and will be able to plan accordingly.

As medical professionals should we be able to restrict the access that pregnant women have to antidepressants as it poses a risk to their unborn child?

JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(2):117-124.

1 thought on “Use of Antidepressants During Pregnancy and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder”

  1. This is a very interesting finding that will probably start affecting how women who are pregnant are treated for depression. At this point, I personally do not think medical professionals should be able to restrict pregnant women’s access to antidepressants. This is a relatively new finding in the world of reproduction, and i think further studies are needed to see which SSRIs and antidepressants are the worst for pregnant women in regards to increasing their child’s risk for developing autism. I do not doubt that this study’s findings are valid, and the results are actually pretty scary when you think about how many women are taking antidepressants. I remember learning in class that an estimated 20-25% of women are taking an antidepressant in the U.S. The issue of women taking antidepressants during pregnancy and the effect it has on their children possibly developing autism should be a main focus of reproductive studies so we can learn how to handle this (unfortunately) common problem. Even though I don’t think health care professionals should be able to inhibit pregnant women from taking antidepressants right now, I think it’s important that they at least make their pregnant patients aware that taking an antidepressant could potentially lead to autism in their child. At this point, pregnant women taking an antidepressant should be made aware of the findings of this new study, and health care providers should leave it up to them to decide if they want to stop their antidepressant. This will be a hard issue for health care providers to handle because, in some extreme cases, it might be more dangerous to the child and the woman if she stops taking her antidepressant medication because some women probably have severe enough depression that not taking an antidepressant could potentially lead to harmful depressive episodes. It will be interesting to see how this study changes the way pregnant women are treated for depression to prevent their child from having an increased risk of developing autism.

Leave a Reply