Prenatal Antidepressant Exposure and Autism: Three Studies Offer Some Reassurance — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
April 19, 2017

Prenatal Antidepressant Exposure and Autism: Three Studies Offer Some Reassurance

By Amy Orciari Herman

Edited by David G. Fairchild, MD, MPH, and Lorenzo Di Francesco, MD, FACP, FHM

Three new studies suggest that antidepressant use during pregnancy doesn't lead to autism in offspring. However, maternal mental health could be a factor.

First, a JAMA Pediatrics meta-analysis of six case-control studies found that antidepressant use during pregnancy was associated with increased autism risk in offspring. However, maternal use of antidepressants before conception appeared to be more consistently associated with autism, leading researchers to conclude that maternal psychiatric illness before pregnancy — not antidepressant use during pregnancy — "could have a major role" in autism risk.

Next, in JAMA, an analysis of Canadian health records of nearly 36,000 singleton births, suggested increased risk for autism in children exposed in utero to selective serotonin or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. However, the association was no longer significant after adjustment for 500 covariates or in sibling analyses.

Finally, an analysis of 1.6 million children in Sweden found that, after adjustment for confounders, first-trimester antidepressant exposure was not associated with autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Dr. Robert Barbieri of NEJM Journal Watch Women's Health said, "The lack of a direct causal link between maternal antidepressant use and [autism] should be reassuring to parents and clinicians." JAMA editorialists write, "Disentangling the effects of maternal mood disorders on the fetus vs. shared genetic predisposition to mental and neurodevelopmental disorders is the next step."

Your Comment

(will not be published)

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Do you have any conflict of interest to disclose?
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Vertical Tabs

* Required

Reader comments are intended to encourage lively discussion of clinical topics with your peers in the medical community. We ask that you keep your remarks to a reasonable length, and we reserve the right to withhold publication of remarks that do not meet this standard.

PRIVACY: We will not use your email address, submitted for a comment, for any other purpose nor sell, rent, or share your e-mail address with any third parties. Please see our Privacy Policy.