Antidepressants during pregnancy 'do not cause ADHD and autism'

Taking antidepressants before pregnancy and during the early stages does not increase a child's chances of developing autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to new research.

Scientists from Indiana University, US, found that there were no increased risks of developmental disorders among children who were exposed to antidepressant drugs in utero. The findings follow on from disagreements in the medical community, with studies reaching different conclusions.

According to the latest study, which was controlled for a number of other factors, environmental and genetic influences are more likely to affect the development of such disorders in children.

Many women experience periods of depression during pregnancy, which, if left untreated, puts an unborn child at serious risk. Depression during pregnancy can lead to poor fetal growth, developmental problems and premature birth, which is why all treatment options should be explored in order to ensure mother and baby are kept in the best health.

While treatments like therapy can be beneficial, some cases may require the use of antidepressants, especially if a mother has a history of depression. Previous studies have concluded that it is the medications that cause problems, but have failed to take into account the effects of depression itself, as well as genetic factors and stress.

The new study looked at over 1.5 million Swedish children born between 1996 and 2012, encompassing almost 950,000 mothers. Around 1.4 per cent (over 22,000) mothers reported using antidepressants during the first trimester of a pregnancy. 

Comparing siblings within families where a mother used antidepressants during one pregnancy but not another, the scientists found that children had the same risk for ADHD, autism and poor fetal growth whether their mother took antidepressants during pregnancy or not.

The only real difference between the two groups was that those exposed to the drugs had a small increased risk of premature birth. This suggests that it is not the antidepressants causing the increased risk of developmental disorders.ADNFCR-2094-ID-801834880-ADNFCR