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Autism Risk Increased By Maternal Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy

Update Date: Dec 15, 2015 09:40 AM EST

Pregnant mothers taking antidepressants increase the risk of autism in their children, a new study found.

According to The Washington Post, researchers at University of Montreal found that mothers taking anti-depressants which balance levels of neurotransmitter serotonin to lift mood, also called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), may expose their children to as much as 87 percent higher risk when the drugs are taken during second or third trimesters.

"Use of antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, during the second and/or third trimester increases the risk of ASD in children, even after considering maternal depression," researchers wrote in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

For the study, researchers used data on 145,456 children from the Quebec Pregnancy Cohort between during ages 1 to 10 years. Researchers also sought information on mother's use of antidepressants. In the study 1,054 children were diagnosed with autism at an average age of 4.5 years.

While researchers do not rule out other factors that could influence autism risk, they said taking antidepressants during a crucial phase of fetal development can hamper brain development in many ways.

"It is biologically plausible that anti-depressants are causing autism if used at the time of brain development in the womb, as serotonin is involved in numerous pre- and postnatal developmental processes, including cell division, the migration of neuros, cell differentiation and synaptogenesis - the creation of links between brain cells," said the university's Professor Anick Bérard.

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