Could Pre-Natal Anti-Depressants be Linked to Autism?

A tentatively worded study has recently been published, based on the findings of a Swedish research study, which suggests that foetal exposure to anti-depressants could be linked to an increased risk of the child developing autism. In particular, it was noted that there was in increase in intellectual disabilities, amongst the autism spectrum disorders. This is the second study in two years which has linked the use of anti-depressants with autism in children – a study in California noted similar results following testing. The Swedish study, however, could not exclude the possibility that severe depression rather than the drugs themselves caused the link.

The two studies took very different approaches to the testing involved. The Swedish study noted that there was a major dilemma in determining the risks, due to the US study claiming that severe depression was not the cause of the link between the drugs and autism. If the drugs create the risk of autism spectrum disorders, it is advised that women are warned of the risk. However, if the link is caused by non-genetic effects of severe depression during the pregnancy period, treatment could actually reduce the risk. The researchers stated that an informed decision would need to be taken in each individual case in order to determine the risk of untreated depression verses the possible adverse effects of anti-depressants.

Others working in the field have made more distinct links between prenatal drug use and the risk of autism being increased. There have been numerous animal studies which show that an exposure to drugs during the developmental stage leads to changes in the brain activity, which can lead to behavioural changes – often those which mimic autism. So, if drugs targeting the brain and chemical activity in the body alter the function, what does this say for the risk on the unborn child? As proven by the studies, it is difficult to determine the risks of using anti-depressants during pregnancy. While the results did only show modest increases, it is advised that you speak to your GP to ascertain your situation and see how severe the case is.

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