Pregnancy: Antidepressants increase the risk of autism in children

How does taking antidepressants affect children during pregnancy?
Taking medication during pregnancy carries some risks for both mother and child. Researchers have now found that taking antidepressants during pregnancy increases the likelihood of autism.

The University of Bristol scientists found in their current study that the children of mothers who take antidepressants during pregnancy are more likely to develop autism. The doctors published the results of their study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Antidepressants during pregnancy increase the risk of autism in children
If mothers took antidepressants during pregnancy, their children were at increased risk of developing autism. The absolute risk found is relatively low, increasing from 2.9 cases in 100 children to 4.1 cases, the experts explain.

Researchers analyze the data of 254,610 people for their study
In the current study, the researchers analyzed the data of a total of 254,610 people aged between four and 17 years. These included 5,378 people with autism. Up to eight percent of pregnant women in the UK took antidepressants during their pregnancy, the authors add.

What would be the effects if mothers stopped taking antidepressants?
Even though the association between antidepressants and autism is causal, stopping maternal use during pregnancy could only prevent about two percent of all cases of the disease, the researchers explain.

Are mood disorders or medication the trigger for increased risk of autism?
The increased risk of autism may be due to the medication, but the increased risk may also be due to the effects of the mood disorder, experts say.

Depressed moods are more common among parents of children with autism
Given that previous family studies have already shown increased mood disorders among parents of children with autism, there may also be an overlap in the genetic factors between mood disorders and autism, the researchers add. If there is a causal relationship between antidepressants and autism, then this connection is only very modest.

More research is needed
There are also other factors, apart from antidepressants, which could explain the effects, the experts suspect. The current study raises some new questions. Further research is now needed to better understand the effects and relationships. (as)

Author and source information

Video: What is Autism, How to prevent Autism during pregnancy, Dr Sanjay K Saxena (June 2021).