Taking antidepressants during the second or third trimester of pregnancy may increase the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder, according to a study of Canadian mothers and children published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.
Scientists looked at health records in Quebec over a period of 12 years to study the birth and development of 145,456 infants and found an 87 percent increase in the risk of the child developing autism when the mother took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — which include common antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft — during the second and third trimesters.
“Use of antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, during the second and/or third trimester increases the risk of ASD in children, even after considering maternal depression,” reads the abstract of the study.
The full study is behind a paywall and only available to journal subscribers, but the Washington Post reported on the full process of the data analysis, as described in the journal:
During that time 145,456 full-term singleton infants were born, and 1,054 or 0.72 percent were subsequently diagnosed with autism. The average age at first diagnosis was 4.6 years and the average age of children at the end of follow-up was 6.2 years. Boys with autism outnumbered girls 4 to 1.
Researchers identified 4,724 infants (3.2 percent) who were exposed to antidepressants in utero, with 4,200 exposed ruing the first trimester; 2,532 during the second and/or third trimester.
Of the first group, 40 were diagnosed with autism and in the latter group 31 were diagnosed with autism.
When taking into account maternal depression as a factor, that translates to no association for use of antidepressants in the first trimester but an 87 percent increased risk when used in the second or third trimester, Anick Bérard, a researcher at the University of Montreal, and co-authors wrote.
Links between child autism and maternal antidepressant usage during pregnancy, though, isn’t exactly a sure thing among the scientific community.
A U.S. study earlier this summer found a link between antidepressant by mothers and ADHD in the child but not autism. A 2013 study of Danish children found “no significant association between prenatal exposure to antidepressant medication and autism spectrum disorders in the offspring.”