One study, published July 4, 2011, in the Archives of General Psychiatry suggested a link between maternal use of SSRI medications and an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder in infants exposed to the medications prior to birth. The study examined 298 children with autism spectrum disorder and 1,507 randomly selected control children.
Through examining the mothers' history of antidepressant use, researchers found that infants exposed to SSRI medications prior to birth had two times the increased risk of autism spectrum disorder. The highest risk was found when infants were exposed to SSRI medications during the first trimester.
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This was not the only study to suggest a link between autism spectrum disorder and SSRI medications. One study examined the use of SSRI medications in rats just before and after birth to determine whether there was a risk of autism spectrum disorder. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (10/24/11) found that rats exposed to SSRIs just before and after birth—approximately equivalent to the third trimester of human development—showed impaired social behavior and response to new situations, similar to behaviors displayed by children with autism spectrum disorder.
Furthermore, the rats had deformations in nerve fibers in their brain and changes in the electrical activity of their brain.