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Study finds prenatal exposure to SSRI anti-depressants linked to autism

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, a form of anti-depressants commonly known as SSRIs, have generally been considered safe for women during pregnancy. However the results of a recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry raise some concerns about SSRI use during pregnancy possibly being linked with childhood autism.

The study was conducted in the Netherlands and included 376 children whose mothers exhibited depressive symptoms during pregnancy but did not take SSRIs, 69 whose mothers did take SSRIs during their pregnancy, and 5531 children whose mothers were not depressed and did not take SSRIs.

Children who had between exposed to SSRIs in utero were at great risk of developing autistic traits as well as more pervasive developmental problems (for example, language difficulties). Although the link to autism wasn’t as strong, children of depressed mothers who did not take SSRIs showed an increased risk of developing both developmental problems and affective problems such as difficulty regulating their emotions leading to tantrums, anxiety, and aggression.

Based on their findings, the researchers stress that more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of SSRI use on children before any clinical recommendations can be made.

Read the study abstract here. 

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