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Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy and the Risk of Autism

On NBC Nightly News (12/14, story 7, 2:05, Holt), correspondent Anne Thompson reported that a study suggests that the most commonly prescribed antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), if taken during the second and third trimesters, are tied to a greater risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The study, which was published online Dec. 14 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, reveals, however, that no increase in autism rates was seen in women who took medication for depression in the first three months of pregnancy.  The risk came in the second and third trimesters.

For the study, investigators analyzed health records in Quebec from January 1999 and December 2009. During that time frame, 145,456 full-term singleton infants were born, and 1,054 or 0.72 percent were subsequently diagnosed with autism.

After comparing rates of autism among babies born to women with a history of depression with autism rates among babies born to those who took antidepressants during pregnancy, the study authors found that babies whose mothers took an SSRI were still about 75% more likely to get an autism diagnosis than were those whose mothers had a history of depression.

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