SSRIs and Pregnancy. New Research. New Worries?

 

Cropped view of pregnant woman taking pill with glass of water, possibly a prenatal vitamin.

 

There is new reserach on the use of SSRIs during pregnancy that is unsettling. This study reports that the use of antidepressants during pregnancy may increase the risk of having a child with autism.

Tons of folks are understandably reaching out to us for clarification and reassurance. I am writing this only to say that the jury is still out and I am doing my best to gather information so we can all rest easier. There is a buzz around this now and experts are trying hard to understand the implications so no one over reacts and so we proceed with knowledge and caution.

In response to this research, there is a good article that begins to break it down a bit. Their main point is:

“And while that sure sounds scary, it’s important to remember that this figure is relative to the risk that already exists for autism even before medications are involved, and there are multiple studies that have turned up no such link.”

They also say:

“Of particular concern is that headline-ready “87 percent” figure. On its own, it sounds alarming, but when you consider that the risk of a child developing autism is already 1 percent, that makes the risk associated with SSRI’s in this study 1.87 percent – small enough that it could have been an error in analysis.”

That point is worth repeating. If the risk of a child developing autism is 1 percent, the risk raised in this study increases that risk by 87%, which makes the overall risk now 1.87%.

Another point:

“This study looked only at one developmental outcome and there is no control group that would enable us to capture all of the potential harm that might have been prevented with the choice to treat depression”

Furthermore, they point out that depression is a serious illness and the risk of untreated depression is associated with behavior changes (e.g. nutritional, sleeping impairment, high stress) that could cause developmental problems for the infant.

This is an excellent rebuttal published by Science Magazine. Please read it.

Most important, each woman needs to discuss her risks and specific concerns with her health care provider.

The take-home point is that there is much conflicting research on this and while initially startling, we need to be cautious about jumping to conclusions or abruptly changing our practices.

I will follow up when I have more information to share. In the meantime, take a deep breath and remember that this is not the first time research has reported on a a negative outcome associated with the use of SSRIs and pregnancy. We will continue to study this so we can offer the best recommendations.

 

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