Anti-depressants during pregnancy linked to autism and developmental delays in boys

Anti-depressantsWashington, April 16 - Researchers have found that prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a frequently prescribed treatment for depression, anxiety and other disorders, was associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developmental delays (DD) in boys.

The study included 966 mother-child pairs from the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment ( CHARGE ) Study, a population-based case-control study based at the University of California at Davis' MIND Institute.

The researchers broke the data into three groups: Those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), those with developmental delays (DD) and those with typical development (TD). The children ranged in ages two to five. A majority of the children were boys - 82.5 per cent in the ASD group were boys, 65.6 per cent in the DD group were boys and 85.6 per cent in the TD were boys.

Li-Ching Lee, Ph. D., Sc. M., psychiatric epidemiologist in the Bloomberg School's Department of Epidemiology said "while the study included girls, the substantially stronger effect in boys alone suggests possible gender difference in the effect of prenatal SSRI exposure.

He said that they found prenatal SSRI exposure was nearly 3 times as likely in boys with ASD relative to typical development, with the greatest risk when exposure took place during the first trimester.

Lee said SSRI was also elevated among boys with DD, with the strongest exposure effect in the third trimester.

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph. D., M. P. H., chief of the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health in the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences and a researcher at the UC Davis MIND Institute, said this study provides further evidence that in some children, prenatal exposure to SSRIs may influence their risk for developing an autism spectrum disorder.

The study has been published online in the journal Pediatrics. (ANI)