Possible Link to Autism Found in Mothers Taking Medication

A new study published on July 4th in the Archives of General Psychiatry stated that environmental factors, such as the type of medications women take when they are pregnant, can attribute to autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Scientists still do not have all the definitive answers on everything that causes autism, but new reports show that the disorder can start in a mother’s womb.

This study depicted that mothers who took antidepressants particularly during the first three months of pregnancy had a much higher chance to give birth to an autistic child (6.7 percent).

The study found a two-fold increased risk of ASD associated with treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) by the mother during the year before delivery.

No increased risk was found in mothers with a history of mental illness. The study concluded that although the number of children exposed prenatally to SSRIs in the population was low, results suggest that exposure, especially during the first trimester may increase the risk of ASD. The report says further studies need to be conducted.

Some SSRI drugs include Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro and Celexa.

Jeff Lsell, vice president of public policy and general counsel of the Bethesda, Md., Autism Society said genetic causes for autism are losing their credence and now environmental factors have been found to possibly be a factor.

“There are still so many unanswered questions surrounding autism and this recent data is showing that identical and fraternal twins can have a higher risk of developing ASD,” said Lsell. “There are also some reports that a mother’s age can possibly contribute to the disease, along with antidepressant medications.”

According to the study, one out of every 110 children has ASD. People with the disorder experience challenges with intelligence, socializing and communication.

“Hopefully the research is moving forward and I do believe this is a first step with looking into other factors, such as environmental,” Lsell said.

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