Babies born to mothers who took
antidepressants early in their
pregnancy are approximately three
times more likely to develop autism.

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The autism study, linking the use of antidepressants to autism, came about because the "prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has increased over recent years. Use of antidepressant medications during pregnancy also shows a secular increase in recent decades, prompting concerns that prenatal exposure may contribute to increased risk of ASD."

The study, published online in Archives of General Psychiatry on July 4, 2011, reveals new research that links the use of SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in children. After examining medical records, scientists found that mothers who take SSRIs during the first trimester had a 3-fold increased risk of having a child with autism.

Children born to mothers who took the antidepressant during the second and third trimesters were found to have a "2-fold increased risk of ASD associated with treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors by the mother during the year before delivery, with the strongest effect associated with treatment during the first trimester."

The same study made no findings that the ASD risk was associated generally with a history of mental health disorders.

Researchers used medical records from the Childhood Autism Perinatal Study, which was conducted by Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Northern California. "Results suggest that exposure, especially during the first trimester, may modestly increase the risk of ASD," researchers concluded, adding that further studies will be needed to replicate and extend their findings.

Summary Information

Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy and Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders

Lisa A. Croen, PhD 1; Judith K. Grether, PhD 2; Cathleen K. Yoshida, MS 1; Roxana Odouli, MSPH 1;
Victoria Hendrick, MD 3

  1. Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland
  2. Environmental Health Investigations Branch, California Department of Public Health, Richmond
  3. Department of Psychiatry, Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital
    University of California, Los Angeles

Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol 68, No. 11, pp. 1104-1112, November 2011

This study was supported in part by Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Clinician Research Fund and Cooperative Agreement U10/CCU920392 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Additional Studies Linking Antidepressants to Autism


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