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Antidepressants Linked to Increased Risk of Autism

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- It is estimated that about 1 in 110 children in United States have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), however, despite decades of research, there are only a few known genetic risk factors for ASD which account for a minor portion of the risk for the disorder

A new study by Kaiser Permanente in Northern California has found a link between maternal antidepressants and the risk of autism.

The study saw researchers reviewing the medical records of over 1,600 children and their mothers in California; 298 of those children having been diagnosed with ASDs. The authors of the study evaluated whether there was an association between maternal use of SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) antidepressants and the occurrence of ASD.

According to the findings of the study published in Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers found that 3.3 percent of the mothers of healthy children took antidepressants in the year before delivery compared to 6.7 percent of the mothers of children with ASD. These findings have been interpreted as the maternal use of SSRI antidepressants in the year before delivery being associated with a two-fold increase in the risk of ASD in a child.

Study findings show that the association was even greater if the medications were taken during the first trimester, with almost a four-fold increase in risk.

Although these numbers may sound alarming, researchers say in the general population, the fraction of cases of ASD that may have resulted from the use of antidepressants by the mother during pregnancy is less than three percent. Authors of the study also say it is reasonable to conclude that prenatal SSRI exposure is “very unlikely” to be a major risk factor for ASD.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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