Pregnant Women Shouldn't Panic Over Potential Culprit of Autism in Boys

pillsIt seems like every month, a new study points to a possible cause of autism. This week, research published in the online issue of Pediatrics out of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health notes that boys with autism were three times more likely to have been exposed to SSRI antidepressants (like Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, etc.) in the womb than typically developing children. The study also found that boys whose mothers took SSRIs during pregnancy were also more likely to have developmental delays.


To hear these conclusions is initally unnerving to say the least, considering how moms who face depression during pregnancy were already feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place.

For years, pregnant women prescribed antidepressants have had to weigh their concerns about the potential risks of continuing to take their prescription against the possibility that a drug substitution could fail and cause a depression relapse, which could also affect the baby. What are these women to do?

Well, put the panic-striking headlines in perspective for starters. The researchers note that while the study only found an association between SSRIs and autism risk, it didn't prove cause-and-effect. They also acknowledged the risks to both the mother and fetus from untreated depression. Furthermore, a similar study from December 2013, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, included almost 4,000 children with autism spectrum disorders and did not find a significant association between autism and SSRI exposure during pregnancy.

Ultimately, it may be reassuring to hear that both researchers and the Mayo Clinic stress that the decision for any woman to continue or change her antidepressant medication is up to her and her health care provider.

How do you feel about antidepressant use during pregnancy?


Image via science photo/shutterstock

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