Study: SSRI use during pregnancy increases risk of autism

Pregnant women who take a class of antidepressants may be putting their unborn children at risk for autism, a new study suggests. The antidepressants involved in the study are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and include brands such as Paxil, Prozac, Celexa and Zoloft.

Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first three years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. The incidence of autism has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, from 4 in 10,000 children to 40 in 10,000.

SSRIs are used to treat depression, anxiety disorder, and some personality disorders. They work by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain. SSRIs are the most widely prescribed antidepressants in the United States.

In the new study, researchers from Kaiser Permanente Northern California reviewed the medical records of more than 1,600 children, 298 of whom had autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). They found that the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder was about twice as great among women who took SSRIs during the year before she gave birth. The risk was four times higher in women who took SSRIs during their first trimester.

Women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant and are taking SSRIs should discuss with their doctors the pros and cons of using any medication.

Source: Medical News Today