Many people suffer from depression at some point in their lives. In fact, 10.8% of Americans over the age of 12 are currently on an antidepressant. Women are especially susceptible, with over 15% currently on an antidepressant.
While, these antidepressants can reduce some of the symptoms associated with depression, they can also bring unwanted side effects.
Antidepressants and Autism:
One such side effect is autism in children of mothers who are on antidepressants. A new study tracked 145,456 children for an average of 6.24 years after birth. The researchers found that 0.7% of the children were diagnosed with autism. More importantly, even after adjusting for potential confounders, children of mothers who took antidepressants in the second and/or third trimester were 87% more likely to develop autism. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors were especially dangerous, with children of mothers who took them during the second and/or third trimester 117% more like to develop autism.
Why does this occur? Researchers believe that
because serotonin is involved in numerous pre- and postnatal developmental processes, antidepressants that inhibit serotonin (particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors known as SSRIs) will have a negative impact on the ability of the brain to fully develop in-utero.
If you are pregnant , lay off the antidepressants. The researchers concluded,
Depression should be treated with other options (other than antidepressants) during [pregnancy]. Indeed, 80-85 percent of depressed pregnant women are mildly to moderately depressed; exercise and psychotherapy have been shown to be efficacious to treat depression in this sub-group. Therefore, we acknowledge that depression is a serious condition but that antidepressants are not always the best solution.
Croen, Lisa A., et al. “Antidepressant use during pregnancy and childhood autism spectrum disorders.” Archives of general psychiatry 68.11 (2011): 1104-1112.