Boys born to women who took a type of antidepressant during pregnancy were three times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than boys who were not exposed to the drugs in utero, a new study has found. The greatest risk was in boys who were exposed to the drugs during the mother’s first trimester of pregnancy.
Researchers also found boys exposed to these antidepressants were more likely to have developmental delays.
The new study, published this week online and in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics, focused on a commonly prescribed class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Brand names include Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa and Prozac.
SSRIs can cross over into the placenta in pregnant woman and cause levels of the hormone serotonin to increase in the developing fetus. Previous research shows that a third of children with autism have higher-than-average serotonin levels, which some speculate may lead to the development of abnormal brain circuitry.
The study is the latest to show that SSRI use during pregnancy may be dangerous to unborn babies. Previous studies have linked SSRI exposure in utero to birth defects such as malformations, heart defects, neural tube defects, and a specific lung defect known as persistent pulmonary hypertension.
Makers of SSRIs currently face hundreds of lawsuits from parents who say the drug companies knew the serious risks the drugs posed to developing fetuses but failed to adequately warn women or their doctors.
Source: CBS News