Antidepressants during pregnancy and autism in offspring

Stockholm, Sweden, served as the backdrop for a large, prospective cohort study investigating a possible link between antidepressant use among pregnant women and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in their babies. The sample population included nearly 255,000 local children aged 4–17 years.

Stockholm, Sweden, served as the backdrop for a large, prospective cohort study investigating a possible link between antidepressant use among pregnant women and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in their babies. The sample population included nearly 255,000 local children aged 4–17 years. A total of 3,342 were born to mothers who took antidepressants while carrying them, and 12,325 were delivered to women who had psychiatric conditions but did not take drugs to treat them during pregnancy. The remaining offspring were born to mothers with no history of psychiatric disorder and no antidepressant use. In all, nearly 5,400 of the children had an ASD diagnosis—including 4.1% of those exposed to antidepressants in utero and 2.9% of those not exposed but born to mothers with psychiatric problems. The study achieved consistent results using different approaches—multivariable regression, propensity score matching, sibling controls, and a negative control design—meant to address confounding. Subsequently, confounding cannot completely account for the correlation between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism in offspring. The researchers emphasize that the overall risk of ASD was low; however, they believe the findings might offer greater insight into the etiology of autism.

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