Women who take antidepressants when they're pregnant are twice as likely to give birth to an autistic child, a new study suggests.
The drugs, which are commonly prescribed during pregnancy, double the risk for autism, say researchers from Drexel University School of Public Health. Around 1.5 per cent of children whose mothers took an SSRI antidepressant developed an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared to 0.7 per cent of children whose mothers didn't take the drug.
The researchers studied around 750,000 births in Denmark from 1997 to 2006, and compared SSRI use against cases of autism. They discovered a massive under-reporting of depression among the mothers, which may explain why previous studies had been inconclusive, and hadn't always discovered a link with the drugs.
However, the association still accounts for only a small fraction of autism cases, say the researchers, and so couldn't be singled out as the major cause.
(Source: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2014; doi: 10.1007/s10803-014-2128-4)