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Antidepressant Use In Pregnancy Linked to Autism Risk

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on April 25, 2013


Background: In the past three decades, the rate of diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased dramatically—from one in 2,000 children to one in 88. While that uptick could be attributed to changes in diagnostic criteria, researchers are interested in identifying causal factors for ASD. Recent studies have suggested that depression or antidepressant use in parents could be associated with the development of ASD in resulting offspring.


What’s New: On April 19, 2013, British Medical Journal featured a study on parental depression and antidepressant use during pregnancy, with relation to ASD in children. Using publically available health records of 4,429 autistic individuals in Sweden, the researchers calculated the likelihood of an autism diagnosis as related to a family history of depression and maternal antidepressant use. Comparing the results to those of 43,277 controls, they determined that use of SSRIs and other antidepressants during pregnancy could account for about 1 percent of ASD cases.


Why it’s important: This is the second paper in two years to suggest a link between antidepressant use and ASD. However, because only a small fraction of ASD cases in the study appeared to be caused by maternal antidepressant intake, the increase in diagnoses is unlikely to be attributed to the drugs.

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