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Antidepressants in pregnancy linked to autism

A link between autism and antidepressants taken in pregnancy has been identified by scientists, who stress the need for caution about their findings.

A link between autism and antidepressants taken in pregnancy has been identified by scientists, who stress the need for caution about their findings

autism
Children exposed to antidepressants during pregnancy seem at slightly higher
risk of autism, a study has found. Picture: iStock

Children exposed to antidepressants during pregnancy seem to be at a slightly higher risk of autism than children of mothers with psychiatric disorders who were not treated with antidepressants, a study has found.

A University of Bristol-led team analysed data from 254,610 individuals aged 4-17, including 5,378 with autism, living in Stockholm in 2001-11

Of the 3,342 children exposed to antidepressants, 4.1% (136) had autism compared with 2.9% (353) in the 12,325 children not exposed to antidepressants but whose mothers had a history of a psychiatric disorder.

Caution urged

The authors said consistent results suggested the association might not be fully explained by other possible factors.

However, the risk was small, with over 95% of women in the study not having a child with autism.

Urging caution at the findings, the authors estimated only 2% of cases would be prevented if women with psychiatric disorders did not use antidepressants during pregnancy.


Rai D et al (2017) Antidepressants during pregnancy and autism in offspring: population based cohort study. British Medical Journal. doi: 10.1136/bmj.j2811

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