Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and their generics are among the most commonly prescribed antidepressants in the U.S. Research now suggests taking them during pregnancy may increase the chances your child will have autism.
Autism spectrum disorder—a developmental condition characterized by trouble communicating and speaking—is estimated to affect 1.5 percent to 2 percent of U.S. children, depending on how it’s measured, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Meanwhile, about 11 percent of Americans over the age of 12 take antidepressants, according to the latest data from the CDC.
A study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics lends insight into one factor that may influence rising rates of autism spectrum disorder, including Asperger syndrome. Only a few other studies have examined links to antidepressants and pregnancy—the latest from the University of Montreal is the largest of its kind.
Researchers analyzed provincial health records of more than 145,000 pregnancies and births in Quebec from 1998 to 2009. Children with autism were found to be born more often to mothers who took antidepressants than to those who didn’t. While the study offers no definitive answers, the effect persisted when researchers sought to adjust for the possibility that depression itself raised the risk. Psychiatric disorders, both during pregnancy and after birth, have been linked to other developmental problems.