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What Is the Link Between Use of SSRI and Autism?

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Des Moines, IAWhen it comes to treating maternal depression, doctors must weigh the risk of links between SSRI and autism, making the decision to medicate expectant mothers an important one. Although the exact link between SSRIs and autism is not clear, some studies suggest that a link does exist, and it appears to show that some SSRIs could be linked to the development of autism. Concern about so-called autism medications is not new—there have been concerns about immunizations and autism for a while—but recent studies lend more weight to SSRI concerns, especially since infants could be exposed to SSRIs during important developmental stages.

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.

Researchers also found that there was no increased risk in mothers who had a history of mental health treatment but had not taken SSRI medication in the 12 months before delivery. This means that it is most likely not the mother's depression alone that is linked to the development of autism spectrum disorder. Rather, the use of SSRI medications appears linked to autism. Researchers concluded that exposure to SSRIs prior to birth, especially during the first trimester, may modestly increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder.

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.

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READER COMMENTS

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The use of SSRI's & Autism shouldn't surprise anyone. Just look at the medication list of adverse side effects & anyone thinking of getting pregnant should re-think using any medication. It's starting to come out that our diets are so lacking in certain Vitamins, due to the use of many processed foods, that women especially can suffer depression from certain vitamin deficiency's in their diets. Before getting pregnant, think about visiting your Dr. to run blood tests for deficiencys which could result in depression!

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