Posted by Hilary Parker on July 18, 2011
Oh, great: Looks like there’s now more reason for depressed and anxious people to be… well, depressed and anxious.
Pregnant women who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be increasing their unborn child’s risk of developing autism spectrum disorder, according to new research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. SSRIs are a class of drug that includes fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft).
The Autism Research Program at Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) conducted the study, which included more than 1,800 children. Researchers found an adjusted 2-fold increased risk for autism in children among mothers who used an SSRI during the year before delivery — and a 3-fold risk increase when mothers took SSRIs during their first trimester.
“The potential association between use of antidepressants during pregnancy and risk of (autism) has never been investigated before,” lead author Lisa A. Croen, Ph.D., senior research scientist and director of the Autism Research Program at Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, told Medscape Medical News.
That said, Croen is careful to say that these findings “should be interpreted with extreme caution” and that more research is necessary before anyone can claim that SSRIs cause autism.
“At this point, we do not recommend that women make any changes to their treatment approach for depression and/or anxiety,” Croen notes. “We know that there are real risks to the woman and their children if mental health disorders in mom go untreated, and there are real benefits to appropriate treatment. So the potential risk of autism must be balanced with the real benefit of treatment.”
The Mayo Clinic also takes this stance on its website, which says that if expectant mothers don’t take proper care of depression during pregnancy, they may put their health and the health of their babies at risk.
So what’s an expectant mother to do? All of the experts agree that the best first step is to discuss any concerns you have with your doctor. Ask him or her to help you weigh the risks associated with medicating vs. those you may face without the medicine.
And above all else, try not to dwell on the risks of whichever choice you face. That doesn’t do anybody any good.