San Francisco, CAWhile debate rages on about the causes of autism and people argue whether there is a link between vaccines and autism or SSRIs and autism, parents are left wondering whether there was anything they did to cause their child's autism. Mothers, specifically, are concerned that medications they took while pregnant may have played a role in their children's condition. A lack of understanding about the causes of autism makes the situation that much more complex.
So far, autism has been linked to vaccines (in now-discredited studies), SSRI antidepressants, Depakote, environmental factors and genetics. It is the link between autism and medications pregnant women may have taken that has some mothers concerned.
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Approximately a year ago, a study was released that examined the link between antidepressant use while pregnant and the development of autism. That study found that children who were exposed to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) prior to birth were twice as likely to be diagnosed with autism or a disorder related to autism. The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry,
but did not include a large sample size and did not prove that taking SSRI medications while pregnant caused the autism diagnosis. Furthermore, the study only examined whether the mothers filled a prescription for an SSRI while pregnant, not whether the medication was actually taken.
Researchers concluded that although the risk was low, it was modestly associated with maternal use of SSRI medications, especially when the SSRI was taken during the first trimester.
Of course, the flip side of the issue is that there are risks to both the infant and the mother when the mother has certain untreated conditions while pregnant. If expectant mothers are concerned about the medications they are taking and their effect on the unborn baby, they should speak with a medical professional about their options. Medication should not be discontinued without seeking medical advice.