For a long time, the anti-vaccination movement claimed that vaccines increased the chances of autism in children. Though those claims have been disputed by multiple scientific journals and studies, there's a new and scarily true threat that links antidepressants to autism.
A study published in JAMA Pediatrics has found that taking antidepressants during pregnancy increases the child's risk of autism by 87 percent. Meaning that mothers who filled prescriptions during the second or third trimesters of their pregnancy increased the risk.
To come to this conclusion, researchers studied 145,456 children from conception to age 10, and included factors like genetic predisposition to autism, depression, socio-economic factors (like poverty), and maternal age of the mother.
But why the risk? The study suggests that, because antidepressants are known to inhibit serotonin, and because serotonin is an important part of pre- and postnatal development, the lack of this necessary hormone doesn't allow the child's brain to develop properly.
Lead researcher professor Anick Bérard, from the Université de Montréal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre, says that mothers should consider other treatment options to help with maternal depression, which accounts for 20 percent of an increased risk for autism.
"Given the mounting evidence showing increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcome with antidepressant use during pregnancy ... depression should be treated with other options (other than antidepressants) during this critical period," Bérard says.
"Indeed, 80 to 85 percent of depressed pregnant women are mildly to moderately depressed; exercise and psychotherapy have been shown to be efficacious to treat depression in this sub-group. Therefore, we acknowledge that depression is a serious condition but that antidepressants are not always the best solution."
This is huge news for all women who are planning to become pregnant in the future. Given these new findings, women should be aware of the risks associated with depression and seek out alternative treatment to using antidepressants.