A study just published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that the odds of having an autistic child doubled for mothers who took newer antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) during the year before delivery.
SSRIs include Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro, among others.
The study found that the rate was greater than two autistic children per 100 mothers on SSRIs, with the rate higher still if mothers took SSRIs in the first trimester of their pregnancy.
The research was undertaken because the rising incidence of autism in recent years parallels a rise in the use of SSRIs during pregnancy.
A second study just released also suggests that environmental factors, including prenatal conditions, play a significantly larger role in autism.
Dr. Joseph Coyle, editor-in-chief of the psychiatry journal, called the two studies “game changers.”
Clara Lajonchere, an author of one of the studies and vice president of clinical programs for the research and advocacy organization Autism Speaks, said that “much more emphasis is going to be put on looking at prenatal and perinatal [around the time of childbirth] factors with respect to autism susceptibility.”
Pregnant women currently taking SSRIs are cautioned against suddenly discontinuing them. No one should stop taking any psychiatric drug without the advice and supervision of a competent medical doctor.
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