Studies Mental Health
pregnant woman ALEX SEREBRYAKOV/iStock.com

A pregnant woman.

April 19, 2017

Studies: Taking antidepressants during pregnancy doesn’t increase child’s risk of autism, ADHD

Two studies published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that taking antidepressants during pregnancy doesn’t increase the child’s risk of developing autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, refuting previous studies claiming there’s a link.

In the first study, which is thought to be the largest and most comprehensive on the topic, researchers at Indiana University, in collaboration with researchers in Sweden, observed more than 1.5 million Swedish babies born between 1996 and 2012 to mothers who, in some cases, took antidepressants in the first trimester.

The researchers followed up with the families through 2013 and found there was no increased risk of autism or ADHD. The data did suggest a small increased risk of premature birth.

To rule out the connection between antidepressants and autism and ADHD, the researchers took into account other potential factors that cause the conditions, like genes and environmental influence. 

They also compared the health outcomes of siblings in situations where their shared mother took antidepressants while pregnant with one child but not the other and found the siblings had the same risk of developing autism or ADHD, regardless of their mother's medication intake.

The second study published in April in JAMA analyzed data on 35,906 children in Canada born between 2002 and 2010 to mothers who had qualified for public drug coverage. In nearly 8 percent of those pregnancies, the mother had taken antidepressants.

Again, the researchers found no link between antidepressants taken by the mother and neurodevelopmental problems for the child.