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First Trimester Antidepressant Use Tied to Childhood ASD

Last Updated: July 05, 2011.

Prenatal use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy, may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorders in children, according to a study published online July 4 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

TUESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Prenatal use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), especially during the first trimester of pregnancy, may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in children, according to a study published online July 4 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Lisa A. Croen, Ph.D., from Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, and colleagues investigated the association between prenatal use of antidepressants and the risk of ASDs in children. Data were collected from 298 children with ASDs (cases) and 1,507 randomly selected controls, and their respective mothers, on mothers' use of antidepressant medication, mental health of the mothers, and demographic and medical covariates.

The investigators identified 20 (6.7 percent) cases and 50 (3.3 percent) control children who were exposed to antidepressant medication prenatally. Treatment of mothers with SSRIs, one year before delivery, was associated with a two-fold increased risk of ASD (adjusted odds ratio, [OR], 2.2), with treatment in the first trimester showing the strongest association (adjusted OR, 3.8). Children born to mothers with a history of mental health treatment but no prenatal exposure to SSRIs did not show an increased risk.

"Our results suggest that prenatal exposure to SSRIs, especially during the first trimester, may modestly increase the risk of ASDs," the authors write.

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