Antidepressant medication does not increase the risk of autism

November 22, 2013

New research cannot establish a close connection between the use of antidepressant medication - the so-called SSRIs - during the course of pregnancy and the risk of having a child with autism:

"More and more women are given antidepressant medication while they are pregnant. And an increasing number of children are diagnosed with autism. This has given rise to concern over a possible connection. In contrast to other, smaller studies, our survey cannot demonstrate that the risk of having a child with autism is increased by taking antidepressant medication during pregnancy," says PhD Jakob Christensen, researcher at Aarhus University and staff specialist at Aarhus University Hospital.

Previous research has shown that the risk of having a child with autism is up to five times greater for pregnant women who take antidepressant medication.

Largest study of correlation

In a large register study, Jakob Christensen and his colleagues from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital have followed more than 600,000 Danish children born in the period between 1996-2006. The survey is the largest so far undertaken of the correlation between antidepressant medication during pregnancy and autism.

The initial results of the Danish study showed that there was almost a two percent risk of having a child with autism for pregnant women who take antidepressant medication during their pregnancy. For women who do not take antidepressant medication during pregnancy the risk was 1.5 percent. But the researchers also analysed siblings and parents' psychiatric diagnoses. And when these are taken into account the risk is shown to be minimal:

"We know from previous studies that there is an increased risk for autism, among other things, if the parents have a mental diagnosis such as depression. But we cannot demonstrate that the risk is further increased if the mother has received prescription antidepressant medication during the pregnancy," says Jakob Christensen, adding:

"By analysing data for siblings we can see that the risk of having a child with autism is largely the same regardless of whether the mother takes antidepressant medication or not during the pregnancy."

The researchers cannot thereby demonstrate that the medication is to blame for autism in children.

Important knowledge

Many women have antidepressant drugs prescribed by their general practitioner. Researcher in general practice Mogens Vestergaard believes that the survey also contains important knowledge for general practitioners:

"Most of the people who receive SSRIs get them through their general practitioner. This was also the case for 80 percent of the women who received antidepressant medication in the study. Of course the results of the survey provide important knowledge for the general practitioners. They are the ones who meet pregnant women who are nervous about the consequences of taking antidepressant medication during their pregnancy," says Professor Mogens Vestergaard from Aarhus University.

The researchers stress that there may be other risks associated with taking antidepressant medication during pregnancy. People should therefore contact their medical doctor in any case if they are under medication and considering becoming pregnant, so that they can receive the best possible advice.

The study has just been published in the internationally recognized journal Clinical Epidemiology.
-end-
Facts about the study

Download

Read the scientific article here: http://www.dovepress.com/articles.php?article_id=14992

Further information

Staff Specialist, PhD Jakob Christensen
Aarhus University, Department of Clinical Medicine and
Aarhus University Hospital, Department of Neurology
Mobile: +45 6086 5899
jakob@farm.au.dk

Consultant Merete Juul Sørensen
Tel: +45 7847 3118
Aarhus University Hospital, Regional Centre of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Professor, Medical Specialist in General Practice Mogens Vestergaard
Aarhus University, Department of Public Health
Mobile: +45 2343 9990
mogens.vestergaard@alm.au.dk

Aarhus University

Related Autism Articles from Brightsurf:

Autism-cholesterol link
Study identifies genetic link between cholesterol alterations and autism.

National Autism Indicators Report: the connection between autism and financial hardship
A.J. Drexel Autism Institute released the 2020 National Autism Indicators Report highlighting the financial challenges facing households of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including higher levels of poverty, material hardship and medical expenses.

Autism risk estimated at 3 to 5% for children whose parents have a sibling with autism
Roughly 3 to 5% of children with an aunt or uncle with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can also be expected to have ASD, compared to about 1.5% of children in the general population, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Adulthood with autism
The independence that comes with growing up can be scary for any teenager, but for young adults with autism spectrum disorder and their caregivers, the transition from adolescence to adulthood can seem particularly daunting.

Brain protein mutation from child with autism causes autism-like behavioral change in mice
A de novo gene mutation that encodes a brain protein in a child with autism has been placed into the brains of mice.

Autism and theory of mind
Theory of mind, or the ability to represent other people's minds as distinct from one's own, can be difficult for people with autism.

Potential biomarker for autism
A study of young children with autism spectrum disorder published in JNeurosci reveals altered brain waves compared to typically developing children during a motor control task.

Autism often associated with multiple new mutations
Most autism cases are in families with no previous history of the disorder.

State laws requiring autism coverage by private insurers led to increases in autism care
A new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that the enactment of state laws mandating coverage of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was followed by sizable increases in insurer-covered ASD care and associated spending.

Autism's gender patterns
Having one child with autism is a well-known risk factor for having another one with the same disorder, but whether and how a sibling's gender influences this risk has remained largely unknown.

Read More: Autism News and Autism Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.