New Study Links Pregnancy, Antidepressants and Autism


Antidepressants and Autism: What The Study Tells Us

With everything to worry about during pregnancy, do you need to be worried about antidepressants and autism?

You may have heard about the Canadian study that found slightly elevated rates of autism in children whose mothers took antidepressants during pregnancy. In fact, the study concluded that women who take antidepressants in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy had children who were 87% more likely to be diagnosed with autism. What does this mean for expectant mothers who are taking antidepressants?

It turns out not much.

The Canadian study followed 145,000 pregnant moms and their children from 1998 to 2009. While the 87% figure is frightening, the actuality was that only 31 children from the study were diagnosed with autism.

“On its own, it sounds alarming, but when you consider that the risk of a child developing autism is already 1 percent, that makes the risk associated with SSRI’s in this study 1.87 percent – small enough that it could have been an error in analysis.” (Source)

It would be irresponsible not to point out that 0.05, or 5% is the threshold for statistically significant data. The fact that the study found 0.87 increase is not only statistically significant, but it is unlikely that this is an error.

However, this study is not conclusive because women who are taking antidepressants during pregnancy usually have a very good reason to do so. Perhaps, if untreated, the affects on both mom and baby could be much worse than an autism diagnosis. This is not to be flippant about autism, which is a serious diagnosis. But in the grand scheme of disorders and illnesses, most parents would rather have a child with autism than a child with something more grave or deadly.

Another thing to keep in mind is your relationship with your OB/GYN and other doctors. They know your case personally. If they believe its in you and your baby’s best interest to continue taking antidepressants, trust them. Doctors are highly educated and truly have your best interest at heart when it comes to what is the least risky situation for you and your pregnancy. And taking your medical care into your own hands by quitting antidepressants cold turkey can have some serious effects on your mental and physical health.

If your child has been diagnosed with autism, visit Autism Speaks for support and information. If you’re pregnant and worried about antidepressants and autism, talk to your doctor.

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