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New Studies Find No Link Between Antidepressant Use in Pregnancy and Autism, ADHD Risk


By Jonathan Block

April 18, 2017

New Studies Find No Link Between Antidepressant Use in Pregnancy and Autism, ADHD Risk

The offspring of pregnant women who take an antidepressant are not at increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a pair of new studies.

Researchers in the first study examined data on nearly 36,000 live births. In pregnancies where the mother was taking an antidepressant – either a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor – 2% of the offspring developed autism. While this percentage was higher when compared to mothers who didn’t take an antidepressant, when confounding factors were considered, there was no statistically significant difference between the 2 groups, researchers reported in JAMA.

“Although a causal relationship cannot be ruled out, the previously observed association may be explained by other factors,” the authors wrote.

Another study, also published in JAMA, examined 1.5 million births in Sweden and maternal antidepressant use. While maternal antidepressant use during the first trimester of pregnancy, compared to women who didn’t use an antidepressant, was associated with a small increased risk of preterm birth, there was no increased risk for low birth weight, autism or ADHD.

“These results are consistent with the hypothesis that genetic factors, familial environmental factors, or both account for the population-wide associations between first-trimester antidepressant exposure and these outcomes,” the authors of the second study wrote.


Last updated: April 18, 2017