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Mothers Taking Antidepressants 2x more Likely to Have Autistic Child, Study Says

Elizabeth Renter
January 25th, 2013
Updated 05/22/2014 at 2:22 am
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pillsinfant1 265x165 Mothers Taking Antidepressants 2x more Likely to Have Autistic Child, Study SaysReported statistics vary, but about 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder. The condition can manifest itself as severe mental retardation or mild behavioral issues. But it’s the rate of autism and it’s steady increase over the past several decades that has researchers searching for a cause or even contributing factors. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Northen Caroline may have found one cause to add to the list – mom’s antidepressant use.

Their study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, looked at children who were diagnosed with autism and a random group of undiagnosed children. Then, they compared the mothers’ medical records.

What they found was that a pregnant mother’s anti-depressant use was linked to a higher incidence of autism. This is a correlation.

Mothers who took antidepressants during pregnancy were twice as likely to give birth to a child with autism. The risk was significantly increased when the mother took anti-depressants in the first trimester. Then, the risk was three times higher.

“Our results suggests a possible, albeit small, risk to the unborn child associated with in utero exposure to SSRIs,” said Lisa Croen, lead researcher.

SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors represent the most commonly prescribed mental health drugs on the market. An estimated one-in-ten Americans take these anti-depressants. In other words, if all research pointed an accusing finger at anti-depressants, the pharmaceutical makers would take a major hit.

The researchers are cautious to put a dent in the profits of Big Pharma, telling people to carefully weigh the risks of anti-depressants with the benefits, saying that untreated depression has its own risks. (Maybe they aren’t aware of the evidence that says anti-depressants can actually make people more depressed and lead to suicidal thoughts.) What’s more, anti-depressants have been shown to hasten the thickening of arteries, contributing to heart disease.

What they fail to mention is that depression can often be successfully treated with diet, exercise, and natural solutions. Vitamin D, yoga, and acupuncture are just a few natural alternatives—ones that don’t come with unpleasant side effects like increased autism risk or suicidal tendencies. Choose holistic treatment for depression instead of harmful medication.

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  • Vicky Hodgson

    If a pregnant Woman who is depressed takes a pill advised by her Doctor AND prescribed by him/her…and that pill causes Autism in her child…HOW is that her fault? Wether or not the pills cause Autistic spectrum disorders is not the major issue here for me….for me it is worrying that Women automatically assume that if something goes wrong with their child ….it is their fault. In this age of big pharma lies because profit is more important than people we can't all know what is really going on…lies are designed to deceive us and not all of the truth on the net is true. There is a minefield of information out there and it can be confusing to someone who feels ill or depressed, the added complication of the extreme hormone changes in pregnancy doesn't help but I feel that the biggest problem is that the way we live our lives now excludes natural instincts and therein lies the problem because the natural instinct of a Mother is to protect her child…if you superimpose that instinct with an advert for everything Pharma…and a blind faith in Doctors you assume responsibility for any consquences. NEVER Mums fault.

  • triplem

    MMR vaccine is a major culprit in causing autism… …………

  • ChrissyB

    I have a 22 year old on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum (mildly Aspie). I suffered depression in my mid-20's, but not during my pregnancy seven years later; I was offered anti-depressants but turned them down…..and eventually got through. We also need to remember that this disorder is being diagnosed far more widely than it was thirty years ago; iow is there an actual increase in numbers or have they always been there but unnoticed?
    It seems sensible though to watch one's medicine intake carefully during those nine months. Poor mums, they get the blame for many things when in reality they've usually done nothing wrong.

  • Inspired

    Anti-depressants are not without dangers. That is what this article is saying. There is risk of danger to the fetus with almost ANYTHING a mother ingests. This article is simply saying the same holds firm with anti-depressants. But alas there is hope and there are other ways to treat depression for those nine months!! Sunlight, Exercise, Vitamin D are a few of the FREE ways to treat depression.

    I have depression and have been pharma free for three years now. I've never been clearer in my life.

  • Tanner


  • Shannon

    I would like to know on the flip side how that group of medicines effect if the father is taking those meds.- thanks!

  • Julie

    Amen Cornelia!

  • Cornelia

    Little worried about this article. Too often we blame the mother when something is 'wrong' with the child. You are reporting a 'correlation', not hard evidence, and a 'baby born with autism'. In my experience, most cases won't be diagnosed or even suspected/detected until the child is a toddler or older. Between 1st trimester and toddler-hood there are many exposures to many things that can be related to autism.
    The simple truth is that we don't know what causes autism.
    Worrying pregnant mothers won't help. If there are concerns about medication those concerns need to be addressed on an individual bases together with a care provider or care team.

    • Krys

      Very disappointed about this correlation being published. Then again their is no such thing as bad news as long as it gets a response, right? As if mom's don't feel guilty enough. Cornelia responded to this article very well. I second the "Amen"!

    • Mr. Mojo

      The primary job of "care providers" nowadays is pushing pills. Since SSRIs cross the placenta advising pregnant women to avoid taking them seems perfectly reasonable.