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New Study: Taking Antidepressants During Pregnancy Increases Autism Risk By 87%

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 18:04
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Antidepressants And Autism


Researchers at the University of Montreal have made a stunning discovery: Taking certain kinds of antidepressants in the later stages of pregnancy can increase the child’s risk of autism by as much as 87%.

If you’ve heard autism discussed any time in the past 5-10 years, it invariably happened in the context of vaccines, and whether or not they cause the disorder (they don’t). But amid the battling politics and ideologies, the fact remains that autism a) is a challenging disorder with no real known cause, and b) is becoming more common. While vaccines have been proven time and time again to have no relation to autism whatsoever, researchers at the University of Montreal believe they may have found a link between autism and a different medicine: Antidepressants.

“The variety of causes of autism remain unclear, but studies have shown that both genetics and environment can play a role,” said Professor Anick Bérard of the University of Montreal. “Our study has established that taking antidepressants during the second or third trimester of pregnancy almost doubles the risk that the child will be diagnosed with autism by age seven, especially if the mother takes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, often known by its acronym SSRIs.”

The study examined over 145,000 children, following them from conception to age 10. While they of course captured autism diagnoses and the mother’s antidepressant use during pregnancy, they also controlled for other factors with known connections to autism and associated disorders, including maternal age, family history and socioeconomic conditions. Isolated as a sole actor, the use of certain antidepressants in the later stages of pregnancy was shown to increase the child’s risk of being diagnosed with autism by up to 87%. The researchers believe that while antidepressants can obviously work wonders for adults, they may interfere with the fetus’ brain development at a crucial stage.

“It is biologically plausible that antidepressants are causing autism if used at the time of brain development in the womb, as serotonin is involved in numerous pre- and postnatal developmental processes, including cell division, the migration of neurons, cell differentiation and synaptogenesis — the creation of links between brain cells,” Prof. Bérard explained. “Some classes of antidepressants work by inhibiting serotonin (SSRIs and some other antidepressant classes), which will have a negative impact on the ability of the brain to fully develop and adapt in-utero.”



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