Pregnant Women's Use of Antidepressants Linked to Autism

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Lots of moms-to-be suffer from depression while they're pregnant, so they're prescribed antidepressants. But new research shows that these drugs may have long-term effects on the baby.

A new study has linked the suppression of serotonin (a hormone found in the body that triggers stress and depression) in second and third trimester pregnant women to childhood autism.

Antidepressants usually target and suppress serotonin.

Researchers at the university of Montreal looked at prescriptions filled for pregnant women from 1999 to 2009, and found that use of antidepressants during the second and third trimester heightened the chances of having an autistic child by 87%.

The study found that out of 145, 546 infants carried to full term, 1054 were diagnosed with autism between the ages of four and six. They found that more than 10,000 mothers in the sample were prescribed antidepressants, and 71 of these women subsequently had children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Why are women even prescribed antidepressants?

The question as to the safety of prescribing drugs like these is still up in the air. On one hand, you have the doctors who want to give mothers drugs like these to avoid drinking, smoking and other behaviour that endangers the baby.

But doctors who don’t want to prescribe these medicines are fearful that serotonin inhibition can alter the child’s development in the womb.

There have been several studies that have linked the use of antidepressants with increased risk for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), spontaneous abortion, premature birth and other health defects, but the data is not enough to draw any conclusion.

What does this mean for you?

Hormonal changes and depression during pregnancy are real problems and should be addressed. Since the data is not enough, there is no definitive link between antidepressants and autism, but the question of whether it can affect your child or not can’t be answered as well.

If you’re feeling depressed, moms-to-be, it’s best that you talk to your doctor about the possible risks of taking medication during your pregnancy. If you think that you'll be forced to drink alcohol, smoke, eat less or tire yourself out, seek help from your husband, friends, family and your obstetrician.

While there is still no conclusive evidence, it’s important that you know these medicines can affect your baby in the long run.

Read: Children of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have higher risk of autism

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