Can Consumption Of Antidepressants During Pregnancy Cause Autism In Children?

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Pregnant women are often concerned about their baby’s health and autism is perhaps one of the leading causes of worry for any mother to be.

A new study led by Indiana University delves into whether antidepressant consumption by the pregnant woman, prior to the delivery, leads to the child developing autism.

The results of the study shed light into how these medications may be affecting not only the mother, but also the baby’s development while in the womb.

How Was The Study Conducted?

Researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health analyzed the data from all live births that occurred in Sweden between 1996 and 2012. They also took into consideration the antidepressant prescription among the adults in the nation, along with autism and ADHD diagnosis in children.

Other factors that were recorded included the genetic relationship between the children and the parents, education levels of the parents, their age, and more.

Over the course of this comprehensive study, the researchers analyzed data from over 1.5 million infants, making the study one of the largest population-based analysis ever to be performed to highlight the effects of antidepressants during pregnancy.

Link Between Antidepressant Consumption And Autism?

Scientists concluded that after accounting for all other external factors, they did not find any birth defects like autism or ADHD to be linked directly to the mother’s use of antidepressants during the pregnancy.

The chances of affliction with these disorders did not increase in mothers who were on these medications. However, the possibility of premature birth increased 1.3 times for children exposed to the antidepressants.

The premature birth rate increase was found when researchers analyzed siblings. One of the siblings was exposed to antidepressants while in the mother’s womb, whereas the other had not been exposed to the drugs.

“The ability to compare siblings who were differentially exposed to antidepressants in pregnancy is a major strength of this study,” said Brian D’Onofrio, lead author of the study.

He added that most analyses depend on “statistical matching to control for differences in factors such as age, race and socioeconomic status.”

However, ascertaining whether a “perfect match” has been made is challenging as one cannot be sure that the pertinent methods “to control for the differences” are in place. This factor needs to take into consideration as otherwise, the end results may be flawed.

When the researchers compared unconnected children and controlling for external factors, they found that the premature birth risk rose 1.4 times, while low fetal growth risk increased 1.1 times, and ADHD and autism risks increased 1.6 times.

In case of uncontrolled analysis, the study revealed that antidepressant use during early pregnancy resulted in a 1.5 times increased risk of premature birth. The low fetal growth risk increased 1.2 times, the risk of autism was 2 times higher, and the risk of ADHD increased 2.2 times.

The researchers also analyzed the antidepressant use by both fathers and mothers before pregnancy. They concluded that external factors like genetics and environmental aspects cause ADHD and autism in children, and antidepressant use in the first trimester has very little to do with it.

The results of the research have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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