Study: Antidepressants May Play A Role In Autism

Study: Antidepressants May Play A Role In Autism

Jul 05


Consumer Reports
July 5, 2011

Original Link

Antidepressants may play a role in autism, researchers say. A preliminary study by researchers at Kaiser Permanente found a doubling in the risk of autism among mothers who had filled a prescription for antidepressants at any point in the year before delivery.

The risk tripled if the prescription was filled during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Researchers said the study indicates a new for more research and cautioned that patients should not make any change in their drug regimens without discussing it with their physician.

The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry and was accompanied by a second study that looked at identical and fraternal twins and concluded that environmental factors play a greater role in the development of autism than had been previously believed.

The Kaiser Permanente study, which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at 1,805 children in an attempt to measure the effects of prenantal exposure to the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).

Widely-used SSRIs include Prozac, Zoloft and Celexa.

In utero exposure to antidepressant medications was reported in 6.7 percent of cases and 3.3 percent of controls.

“Possible, though small, risk”

“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 Lisa Croen, PhD, director of the Autism Research Program at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.

Researchers conducted a population-based, case-control study among 298 children with ASD and 1,507 randomly selected control children drawn from the Kaiser Permanente Northern California membership. Information on maternal use of antidepressant medications, maternal mental health history, autism and demographic characteristics was collected from medical records.

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 antidepressant 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.

Earlier studies

Prior studies have indicated that abnormalities in serotonin levels and serotonin pathways may play a role in autism.

Collectively these studies suggest the possibility that prenatal SSRI exposure may operate directly on the developing brain, perhaps selectively in fetuses with abnormalities in serotonin-related genes, explained Croen. She adds that physiologic changes related to maternal stress or depression during pregnancy, in combination with SSRI exposure, may contribute to changes in fetal brain development leading to later-diagnosed ASD.


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