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Do Antidepressants Lead to Miscarriages or Autism?

According to current research, certain antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) should only be prescribed for serious mental health conditions. Depression is more than simply feeling down in the dumps. It is a serious mental health issue, which involves the brain. These feelings often interfere with daily routines and can be mild to severe. canstockphoto45542488According to the World Health Organization, major depression affects 15.7 million adults in the United States, which is approximately 6.5%.

In the past 20 years, use of antidepressants has increased by 400%, and they are the most commonly used medications for people ages 18-44 years, which is the childbearing years for women. In addition, women in their late 30s and early 40s are more likely to experience infertility.

SSRI’s and Increased Risk for Miscarriage

Elevated risk for miscarriage, early delivery, infant health complications, and autism are associated with SSRIs, according to a study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Infertility and depression are two complex conditions that often go hand in hand. Lead research Alice Domar and colleagues conducted a large review of studies involving women with depression who took SSRIs while pregnant.

Three main findings stood out in the review of studies. First, there was concerning, clear evidence that SSRI during pregnancy was associated with risk of miscarriage. Women taking these drugs have worse pregnancy outcomes. Second, there was no proof of benefit or evidence that these medications lead to better outcomes for babies and moms. Finally, the researchers concluded that patients, obstetrics physicians, and the general public should be fully aware of these research findings.

Miscarriage Risk Statistics

Overall, risks for miscarriage are:

  • A 75% increased risk associated with Paxil, a commonly prescribed SSRI.
  • A 68% increased risk women using any antidepressant compared to women who do not use antidepressants.
  • A 61% increased risk for use of any SSRI antidepressant.
  • A 19% increased risk for women with a history of depression.

SSRIs and Autism

In a new study from the University of Montreal, researchers found that women taking antidepressants in the last trimester had an 87% increased risk for delivering a child who will be later diagnosed with autism. Additionally, taking SSRIs increased the canstockphoto45750520risk of the diagnosis. Around 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism, according to the CDC, and this rate has continued to increase over the last three decades. Additionally, in the U.S., around 4.5% of women take an antidepressant during pregnancy.

In another study at John Hopkins University, researchers Berard and associates found that boys with autism were 3 times more likely to have been exposed to SSRIs during the pregnancy than girls. In a 2014 meta-analysis of studies, these researchers also found an increased risk for autism when children were exposed to SSRI antidepressants in utero.

Women should consult with their doctors before immediately stopping antidepressants, according to experts. Dr. King of the Seattle Children’s Autism Center emphasizes that many studies show a genetic overlap in women who have depression and children with autism. It appears that people who have a family history of depression also have an increased risk for delivering a child who will be diagnosed with autism.

King also believes these studies do not provide a definitive answer as to how or why antidepressants increase the risk for child autism. The increased risk of autism translates into one additional child born with the disorder for every 200 mothers who continue their SSRI medications during pregnancy.