Exposure to antidepressants in early pregnancy may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorders

Article courtesy of Latitudes

Exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors anti-depressants (i.e. Prozac, Luvox, Paxil and Zoloft) in early pregnancy as well as during the year prior to delivery may increase risk of autism spectrum disorders according to a Kaiser Permanente study published online in the current issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the population-based, case-control study of 1,805 children is the first to systematically address the association between prenatal SSRI exposure and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) risk.

Researchers reported a two-fold increased risk of ASD associated with maternal treatment with SSRI anti-depressants during the year before delivery. Yet, the strongest effect was associated with first trimester treatment, said the study's lead author, Lisa Croen, PhD. She explained that in utero exposure to anti-depressant medications was reported in 6.7 percent of cases and 3.3 percent of controls.

"Our results suggest a possible, albeit small, risk to the unborn child associated with in utero exposure to SSRIs, but this possible risk must be balanced with risk to the mother of untreated mental health disorders," said Croen, who explained that further studies are needed to replicate and extend these findings.

After adjusting for maternal age, race/ethnicity, education and child's birth weight, gender, birth year, and facility of birth, mothers of children subsequently diagnosed with ASD were twice as likely to have at least one anti-depressant prescription in the year prior to delivery of the study child, and over three times as likely to have a prescription in the first trimester of pregnancy.

This study is part of ongoing body of autism research being conducted at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. To learn more go to: www.autismresearch.kaiser.or

First published in July 2011

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