Pregnant Women’s Use of SSRIs Linked to Autism in Their Sons
A new study has linked the use of SSRI antidepressants in pregnant women to an increased risk of autism in their male children.
SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, are a type of antidepressant that is classified by the FDA as Category C, which means the drugs are neither safe nor unsafe for pregnant women. However, the drugs can cross the placenta barrier and increase levels of serotonin in the fetus, as they do in the mother. Higher levels of serotonin in adults and some children has been linked to lower levels of depression; however, about one in three children with autism also has a higher level of serotonin.
“We found prenatal SSRI exposure was almost three times as likely in boys with autism spectrum disorders relative to typical development, with the greatest risk when exposure is during the first trimester,” said study co-author Li-Ching Lee, an associate scientist in the department of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore.
The study followed 966 mother-child pairs. About 800 of the children in the study were males (who are at a higher risk for autism anyway). About 500 children in the study had autism spectrum disorder, 154 had some type of developmental delay, and 320 were in the normal range for child development. The children with autism spectrum disorder were exposed to SSRIs in the womb in 5.9 percent of the pregnancies, while in the children with no developmental disorder, exposure was 3.4 percent.
“It’s a complex decision whether to treat or not treat depression with medications during pregnancy,” Lee said. “There are so many factors to consider. We didn’t intend for our study to be used as a basis for clinical treatment decisions. Women should talk with their doctors about SSRI treatments.”
Other experts suggest that the risk of autism, regardless of cause, is low enough that women with depression should continue SSRI use through their pregnancy.
“This study suggests that there are some risks associated with SSRI exposure and that the risk is higher in boys. They [the study authors] also found the risk is highest with exposure during the first trimester when early brain development is occurring,” said Dr. Eric Hollander, director of the autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder program at Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City.
SSRI use has been linked to other developmental disorders in children in previous studies, including damage to the heart and lungs. The most studied SSRI is Paxil, a category D which illustrates that there is evidence of fetal risk though there is still some indication that the benefits may warrant drug use even if taken during pregnancy. It is recommended by the American College of Obstericians and Gynecologists that Paxil be avoided, if possible, by pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant to reduce the potential risk of harm to the unborn child.
The Strom Law Firm Evaluates Birth Defect Cases Related to SSRIs
The pharmaceutical liability lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC are at the forefront of the fight to protect the public, and will stand up for your rights against the big drug and insurance companies. We will fight to ensure that you and your loved ones receive the justice you deserve. If you or a loved one took prescribed SSRIs, antidepressants, or other drugs during pregnancy, and were not warned about potential birth defects, you may have a pharmaceutical liability case. Contact our defective drug and wrongful death attorneys at the Strom Law Firm, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case as well as your legal rights. 803.252.4800