Antidepressants in Pregnancy Tied to Autism

Dec 17, 2015

By Lisa Rapaport

(Reuters Health) – Women who take antidepressants during pregnancy may be more likely to have children with autism, a Canadian study suggests.

The overall risk is low – less than 1 percent of the nearly 150,000 babies in the study were diagnosed with autism by age six or seven.

But children of women who took antidepressants during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy were 87 percent more likely to develop autism than kids born to women who didn’t take the drugs, researchers report in JAMA Pediatrics.

“Depression is a serious and debilitating condition,” said lead study author Anick Berard of the University of Montreal. “This study is not advocating untreated depression. However, it is certainly advocating treatment of depression with something other than antidepressants during pregnancy.”

Some women, particularly if their symptoms are mild, may be able to manage depression during pregnancy with exercise or psychotherapy, Berard added.

The study doesn’t prove antidepressants cause autism. It also doesn’t explore the potential harms of untreated depression or assess whether remedies other than medication might be safer or more effective for women and their babies.

Left untreated, depression during pregnancy is associated with underweight babies who are more likely to wind up in neonatal intensive care. Pregnant women with uncontrolled depression may not eat well or keep up with prenatal visits, and, in the most severe cases they may be at increased risk for suicide.


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31 comments on “Antidepressants in Pregnancy Tied to Autism

  • Autism in women is thought to be far less frequent, but it may be that the symptoms are just differently expressed. Boys are expected to be socially less skilled and more nerdy and obsessive about train timetables. Girls, in our current culture may take these cognitive shifts doubly badly. Cut off from the expected grouping capabilities and gifted capacities that culture has made the less valuable for them, depression (generally tied to the under-stimulation that is anhedonia) may well be the result of these lesser stimulating modes.

    The model that whatever is causing the depression is causing the uptick in autism is my favourite theory. I think the “whatever” is, or is related to, the disposition towards autism.
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  • I am skeptical about the findings of this study. I have a friend whose late wife was on antidepressants throughout her pregnancy (which wasn’t that long ago). He did a lot of research and was informed by various physicians and by articles he had read that there was no danger of that.
    They are always coming out with studies. Maybe this one is biased and unscientific, like so many others.
    The daughter, however, is a mess, has pervasive developmental disorder (a severe form of autism) – although my friend disputes this diagnosis.
    I’d like to send you a copy of Freud’s Future of an Illusion for Christ Mass (the proper term). What’s your address? (LOL)
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  • This is very kind, Dan, but I appear to have it already. I thought it was amongst a bunch of PDFs. I actually have it in a bunch of kindles I bought a couple of years ago, for reference purposes. (I read this subject area a lot.).

    I adore physical books but I am trying to ditch my physical library at the moment…..where I can. I have an attic stuffed with the non-current tomes. I fully expect to one day come to a pulpy end, squashed by them as the rafters give way. (I can think of less appropriate ways to go.)

    Now I collect ebooks (and PDFs of older), for the simple reason that search tools get me to that section that niggles in the back of my mind. Searchable literature is like having a whole new thinking organ in the brain.

    Thank you, though, for pointing it out. I shall certainly give it a shot.

    Cheers

    Phil
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  • Thank you Phil. I’m sure it’s a ploy by the print industry but those caressing the pages of a book and saying there is nothing like it make me depressed. I wish I could invite them into the 21st century.
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  • I like the feel and the redolence of physical books.
    When you’re reading a novel that has a lot of characters what would be the equivalent of “leafing through” a kindle? What do you do if the novel introduces a lot of characters (like in Dostoyevsky sometimes) and you want to go back and try to find the page where he was first presented?
    Space is a problem, however. My late father’s study is wall to wall books and we can’t figure out what to do with them. And some of these are rare.
    What does the opthalmologic community have to say about spending two or three or more hours a day looking at a screen as opposed to a page?
    But my main point is that I like books because 1. I love them, and 2. I am afraid of change. I admit it.
    For people like Phil and you the ebooks / kindles / PDF’s, are probably indispensable. Granted.
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  • Some quotes, Phil, from the book – to whet your appetite:

    “No, our science is no illusion. But an illusion it would be to suppose that what science cannot give us we can get elsewhere.”

    “Immorality, no less than morality, has at all times found support in religion.”

    “Religion is a system of wishful illusions together with a disavowal of reality, such as we find nowhere else but in a state of blissful hallucinatory confusion. Religion’s eleventh commandment is “Thou shalt not question.”

    “Thus I must contradict you when you go on to argue that men are completely unable to do without the consolation of the religious illusion, that without it they could not bear the troubles of life and the cruelties of reality. That is true, certainly, of the men into whom you have instilled the sweet — or bitter-sweet — poison from childhood onwards. But what of the other men, who have been sensibly brought up? Perhaps those who do not suffer from the neurosis will need no intoxicant to deaden it. They will, it is true, find themselves in a difficult situation. They will have to admit to themselves the full extent of their helplessness and their insignificance in the machinery of the universe; they can no longer be the centre of creation, no longer the object of tender care on the part of a beneficent Providence. They will be in the same position as a child who has left the parental house where he was so warm and comfortable. But surely infantilism is destined to be surmounted. Men cannot remain children for ever; they must in the end go out into ‘hostile life’. We may call this education to reality. Need I confess to you that the whole purpose of my book is to point out the necessity for this forward step?”
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  • I love to caress pages of books if they are composed of high grade shiny paper with just the right kind of odiferous air born particulates emanating off of them. I like to rub those pages on my cheek and inhale deeply. What sets me right into a steaming rage is when pages are made of off-white rough poorly refined “paper” such as that we get for paper shopping bags. Deckle edges are an abomination.

    I read all fiction and some nonfiction on Kindle but my hardcore science is always in dead tree format. I have a highlighter compulsion and keep some beautifully colored gel pens nearby to lay down my marginalia in the most self-satisfying way.
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  • I do a huge amount of screen viewing. The result is difficulty in getting my eyes to focus on distant objects, i.e. return from being crossed. Doing eye rolling exercises helps tremendously. I’ve also put Kindle on my TV streaming media server. I read books from six feet away.

    Art books and old editions I will not get rid of. I’d love to see a return to beautiful binding, beautiful paper, gravure art printing.
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  • Dan

    What does the opthalmologic community have to say about spending two or three or more hours a day looking at a screen as opposed to a page?

    I don’t know about the opthalmologic community but here’s something interesting by Dan Lieberman, Prof at Dept of Evo Bio at Harvard.

    Start at minute 14 for the myopia bit:

    What does the opthalmologic community have to say about spending two or three or more hours a day looking at a screen as opposed to a page?
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  • Phil, some advice: every fifteen minutes when screen viewing look at something in the distance for fifteen seconds. This is a good thing to do (but hard to remember to do), according to my eye doctor (who I see about once every three years). Just saw him: clean bill of health.
    Don’t take Dr. Levitsky’s word for it; google it.
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  • P.S. This note (above) was for Laurie. Threads get confusing.
    I’ll check out the video. I like the guy’s name. He must be a vewy nice man because he has a vewy nice name.
    I want apple pie and ice cweam!
    One question about this study: maybe all the women who were on anti-depressants, the 67 percent, gave their infants flue shots. How do the study-people eliminate other factors?
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  • Dan.

    I would send you the pie but good wuck getting it away from husband, son and nephew. They are wurking in the shadows as I type this.

    Why are we talking wike this?

    How do the study-people eliminate other factors?

    Although I only have a BS in experimental psych I can tell you that the last two years of that were spent grinding out experimental design ideas and controlling for variables is a big part of that. I am always intrigued by the beautiful, parsimonious elegant experiments that come out of these departments.
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  • Dan Lieberman, Prof at Dept of Evo Bio at Harvard.

    Do you want my honest opinion, Laurie? This guy’s an egomaniacal psychopath.
    How does he know that myopia was rare before the invention of eyeglasses? They had records in the “19th Century” and before that (presumably) so part of his claim can be verified, but how do we know that early man wasn’t myopic?—He may be right, but let me continue…
    He’s very opinionated.
    I’d rather have Dawkins as a professor. This guy’s a blowhard.
    40 or 50 miles a week of running? That’s nuts, and everyone knows it.
    (Now you know why I dropped out of college. I tend to resent people who speak with undue conviction and authority. In other words, I know a quasi-charlatan when I hear one.)
    Is this guy a friend of yours? Sorry’ I’m just giving you my honest reaction; you don’t want me to lie, do you?
    Physical activity is not better treatment for depression than any known pharmaceutical!!! And the lack of physical activity does not cause mental illness. He knows nothing about mental illness.
    What an uninspiring talk.

    -Dan the outspoken man
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  • Correction: he said that lack of exercise (and poor diet) “exacerbates” mental illness. That’s questionable too. Sweeping statement.
    Taxing things that are bad for you, like cigarettes and alcohol? Brilliant. He doesn’t understand addiction.
    “Libertarian paternalism.” A great visionary.

    Not.
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  • I apologize. I went overboard – shouldn’t have called Lieberman an “egomaniacal psychopath” and a “quasi-charlatan.” I was feeling irritable, and his manner of speaking and a few of his comments rubbed me the wrong way.

    -Dan the temperamental man
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