Prenatal antidepressant exposure and the risk of Autism

antidepressants in pregnancy

Prenatal antidepressant exposure is associated with risk for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder but not autism spectrum disorder

Study regarding the risk of autism among children of mothers who were taking antidepressants was conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry
When the mother is severely depressed, it affects the health of both the mother and the child. It was believed that the chance of the child having autism disorder increased when the mother was using antidepressant drugs compared to other mothers who did not have such a problem. But, it was further noted that when the mother was appropriately treated for depression, there was no significant link between the mother’s depression and the child getting autism. In fact, when the pregnant lady was treated with drugs for anti depression, the risk was no longer significant. That means the child was at a lesser risk to have autism. However, ADHD disorder was found in children born to depressed mothers in spite of them undergoing best treatments to control the condition.
Roy Perlis, MD, MSc, MGH Department of Psychiatry, senior author of the report feels that when women are appropriately treated for depression while they are pregnant, the medication, in fact, does not contribute to the child’s risk of getting autism. He is of the opinion that it is the generic factors that play a far more important role than the medication prescribed to reduce depression. Environmental factors also contribute to this problem but how far or to what dimension it affects the child is not understood clearly.
Previous studies done on animals and examination of health records give contradictory conclusions as to whether or not medication affects the child. Some studies find prenatal antidepressant exposure to affect the child while other studies do not confirm this association. The present study was conducted to understand if there was an increased association of drugs prescribed for mothers for depression and their children getting autism.
The study was conducted in MGH and Newton Wellesley Hospital where data of children who were born between 1997 and 2010 were examined. Children who had pervasive developmental disorder were included as it is a category that includes autism. Nearly data of 1400 children was studied in relation to data of other children who were born the same year by taking into account the demographic factors as well. The information of the children was clubbed with that of their mother’s mental health at the time of pregnancy to understand the relationship between drugs and conditions of the children. A similar study was conducted with 2250 children who had ADHD with that of children who did not have ADHD.
Prenatal exposure to antidepressants in autism cases was at an insignificant level. Even for women who were prescribed drugs for morning sickness too, there was no incidence of increased level of autism in children. But, when prescriptions for psychotic disorders were given, there was an increase in risk of children being affected with autism. For ADHD, prenatal exposure to antidepressants did play an important role even when the mother was treated effectively.
Dr Roy Perlis concluded his study by stating that there are many options to treat depression using medication and through non-medication methods. He also opines that there is no significant relation between antidepressant drugs consumed by mothers and autism found in children.


Saturday, October 4, 2014
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