Antidepressant use by moms during pregnancy linked to increased autism risk

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Whoa! Please check this stat ASAP: “Antidepressant use, particularly the class known as SSRIs, increased the risk of autism spectrum disorder to a whopping 87% according to this study” Absolute risks (to 87%) and relative risks (by 87%) are two different monsters.


The overall rate of ASDs, regardless of antidepressant exposure was 0.7% (1054 cases in just over 145,000 pregnancies and about 900,000 person-years of follow-up). Of the 4724 infants who were exposed to antidepressants during pregnancy, 46 were diagnosed with an ASD This is NOT an absolute 87% risk/rate of ASD.

This is not to say that there isn’t an association between antidepressant use during pregnancy and ASDs, but to state/imply that the absolute risk is 87% is incorrect.


I see the correction was made (i.e., the sentence was deleted). Thank you. :slight_smile:


I’m sorry but that is bullshit. Xeni I love you. But you only really learned about the benefits of weed when you needed it. Well my brother took his life close to twenty years ago and you have no idea how he suffered. If you want to hear the story as I recall it I would be willing to discuss. When my brother took his life though, it was a definite and purposeful act. I honour him for his courage.

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My brother had aspergers and didn’t see a life for himself. This was 1998.

Sorry to put a downer on everything.

It’s only a “risk” if you consider autism to be a problem. As an autistic person, and parent of an autistic kid, I wouldn’t choose for us to be otherwise.



It may help to know that the term “risk” has a specific definition and meaning in epidemiologic studies such as this one. It is not meant to portray a value judgement, rather to communicate a mathematical calculation that is done in a certain way and that is different from other measures (e.g., risk ratio vs. odds ratio). “Risk” also suggests that we can definitively say that the exposure (antidepressant use) occurred prior to the outcome (diagnosis of ASD).

When genetic counselors (such as myself) and other providers work with patients in clinical practice, we usually refer to “chance” or “likelihood” instead of “risk” for exactly the reason that you describe. :slight_smile:


So one study indicates the number of kids with autism increases by less than a percent, and the other studies show no correlation.

“The venerable nonprofit Autism Speaks…” Venerable? As in “accorded a great deal of respect, especially because of age, wisdom, or character”. I have great respect for Xeni, but certainly not for Autism $peaks.

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If i remember correctly, some genetic markers for depression and ASD are co-located and thus you would expect some sort of association. Whether this is sufficient to explain these findings or not I have no idea.


A reminder: the term ‘antidepressant’ is a clinical category, not a pharmacological one. The authors’ inexplicably indiscriminate use of this term in their abstract does not license journalists to do the same.

Well sure, but mothers will want to know the particular blends to use in order to get their own homebrew autistic baby.


A sequel to Geek Love - using the modern definition of Geek…


Yes, my niece is autistic. Autism Speaks does not speak for our family.

Regarding the study; it is interesting to me. My sister in law suffers from terrible depression, and is currently pregnant again. I shudder to think what life will be like for my brother and other children if she is taken completely off the antidepressants during her pregnancy.


This study is nothing more than an excuse for “Autism $peaks” to shake a cup for more money for a “cure.” I find it hard to believe that no one in the study even thought to research how many of the people taking anti-depressants were themselves on the autism spectrum, where depression is a common occurence.

As a parent who has a child on the autism spectrum, this is just another insult. People on the autism spectrum inherit the genes that create the mindset from their parents. It is not a “disease” in search of a cure. Rather, it is a set of genetic traits that trace back to the days when humans were primarily hunters and gatherers. Agriculture required a different genetic mindset, which evolved to be the more successful mindset amongst humans. Genetic variations are healthy for a species survival, not an excuse to raise money to “cure” those who find Farmville as exciting as watching paint dry.


I love boing boing. You botched the lede on this one, though. First, the most important conclusion they stated was that a woman NOT on antidepressants was more likely to cause harm to their child than the opposite. Second, the increase was like from <1% to <2%, so your emphasis of the 87% increase was a very misleading stat.
My stepson is low-functioning autistic. I normally expect BB to be the ‘voice of reason’ in these types of reports–i.e. you typically present the most favorable viewpoint, not the most inflammatory. In this instance, you went in the wrong direction. Deeply.


I don’t actually think the report was ‘autism speaks’ friendly, even! I think they were showing their results, but then immediately making the point that being off anti-depressants was not the solution, either.
The report also didn’t state definitively whether autism was good or bad, inherently.
(my stepson is low-functioning autistic).

And, the article CLEARLY states the risks of going off antidepressants during pregnancy is probably a greater risk to the child than the risk of the child being on the spectrum.