SSRI Antidepressants May Be Linked To Autism Spectrum Disorder

Reports of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are on the rise, in part because of better diagnostic tools, but many have long believed the increase could be due to environmental exposures. Now, a new study reports that babies born to women taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)—antidepressants such as <"">Prozac, <"">Luvox, <"">Paxil, and <"">Zoloft—when pregnant may experience an increased risk for developing ASD, wrote WebMD.

Researchers compared SSRI use in mothers of children diagnosed with and without ASD and discovered that women who had taken the drugs during pregnancy were twice as likely to have a child who received an ASD diagnosis, said WebMD. “This is the first study that has shown a possible association between SSRI use and autism and the findings should be considered preliminary,” study researcher Lisa A. Croen, PhD, told WebMD. Croen called for more research.

The origins of autism have long been questioned and critics have blamed PCBs; mercury; vaccinations; pesticides; pollution; high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which was found in two studies to contain mercury. All have been blamed on the prevalence of autism and ASDs plaguing children today.

ASDs, noted WebMD, include not only autism, but Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified and involve issues with social interaction, both verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.

While some argue that the increase in diagnosis of autism and ASD is due, in part, with increased understanding and diagnostic tools, others feel that there are not yet identified environmental issues involved, said WebMD. Also, noted WebMD, women’s use of SSRIs have increased in recent years, creating another potential link and risk.

The team collaborated with Kaiser Permanente’s research group to review medical records of about 300 ASD-diagnosed children and their mothers. The records were compared to about 1,500 children without ASD, said WebMD. The team found that 20 mothers of ASD children (6.7 percent) and 50 mothers of children without ASD (3.5 percent) filled at least one antidepressant prescription prior to giving birth; 75 percent of the mothers of ASD children took SSRIs—fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft)—with and without other antidepressants.

Women who took SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy, when compared with women who did not, experienced a two-fold likelihood of giving birth to a child who would be diagnosed with ASD. Too few women reportedly took nonSSRIs to make that connection, noted WebMD. The study appears online in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Meanwhile, said WebMD, a joint statement issued in 2009 by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Psychiatric Association found that antidepressant use and untreated depression pose potential risks for mothers and their developing babies.

Tracy Flanagan, MD, director of women’s health for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, suggests that maternal depression could be another unrecognized risk factor for autism; however, this study revealed “no link between a history of depression or other mental health disorder and ASD,” said WebMD.

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