Study Finds Antidepressant Use by Pregnant Mothers May Play a Role in Autism

Kaiser Permanente researchers, in a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, have found that antidepressant use, particularly during the first trimester of a pregnancy, tripled the risk of autism. The risk was doubled among mothers taking an antidepressant at any time one year prior to delivery.

The study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), included 1,805 children and measured the prenatal use of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) which include Prozac, Zoloft and Celexa. In a population-based study among 1,507 children with autism spectrum disorder from Northern California, a survey was taken of the mother’s drug use and mental health history. After adjusting for a number of factors, the mothers of children with autism were twice as likely to have taken an antidepressant sometime the year before birth. Mothers who took the SSRI in the first trimester were three times as likely to have a child with autism. However, researchers suggest women not change their drug regimen without first talking to their doctor.

The conclusion is that environmental factors may play a larger role in contributing to the development of autism than previously understood, though more study is needed. Other studies have suggested that abnormalities in serotonin-related genes may play a role in the development of autism.

Unfortunately, many patients find out after the fact that the drug they were assured was safe and effective is actually harmful. Many revolutionary drugs, approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (Vioxx, Darvon, Bextra, Fen-phen) are later found to have serious health complications. In some cases, a class action is formed to seek compensation from the drug makers. Consumers should always check their medications for the proper dosage, type of drug, and question whether it really is necessary.