Autism and Antidepressants During Pregnancy: Don’t Freak Out

Thank God for Stark. Raving. Mad. Mommy. She pulled this together at the last minute for me and I feel like she just wrote my math exam for me.

Have a read of her level headed perspective on this:

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A handful of studies have come out recently linking autism to the environment, including the environment in the womb.  In particular, one study, which followed fewer than 300 families, found that taking antidepressants during pregnancy may be connected to a higher risk of autism for the baby.

Experts in prenatal mental health point out that this is a very small study, and that it shows a correlative link, not a causative link. In other words, maybe moms who reach out for mental health support for themselves are more likely to reach out for diagnoses for their children. Any medication – prescription or over-the-counter, can pose risks during pregnancy.  However, according to the Mayo Clinic, the risk of birth defect or other problems for babies of mothers taking antidepressants is low.  Some antidepressants have been shown to be safer than others; a list is provided by the Mayo Clinic here.

In 2009, the American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a joint statement outlining their recommendations for treating pregnant women with depression, as well as women planning to become pregnant.  It recommends that for women with mild depression or no symptoms for six months or longer, it may be appropriate to taper off medication before becoming pregnant.  However, for women with a history of severe, recurrent depression (or with bipolar disorder, psychosis, or a history of suicide attempts), medication discontinuation may not be appropriate.

What does this mean?  It means that it’s imperative that women who are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant work closely with their ob/gyns and their mental health professionals to weigh the risks and benefits of taking antidepressants.  Non-treatment of depression during pregnancy has its own risks, including preterm birth, growth problems, and a potentially much greater risk of postpartum depression.

Also, please heed my warning: reading a two-sentence news bullet point doesn’t actually make random people qualified to ask pregnant women if they’re taking antidepressants.  In fact, unless you’re that woman’s obstetrician, or maybe Oprah, it would be kind of awesome if you would just shut the hell up about it.

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Thank you Stark. Raving. Mad. Mommy., I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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13 Comments

  • I am 31 and have tried to get pregnant for 2 years, with an unknown reason for infertility. 1 failed IVF/ICSI cycle. My RE works alongside a psychologist and together they recommended Zoloft to keep the "wheels from spinning" in my head. I’m not depressed but my mind is just constantly thinking. I got pregnant the month after I started Zoloft with no assisted reproductive therapy. I am currently 6 weeks pregnant and will plan to taper off the Zoloft by the end of my first trimester. After 2 years, $25,000 for IVF, and lots of heartache, I am so thankful that my mind finally calmed down enough to let my body get pregnant.

  • Bravo to the woman with OCD who challenges the scientist who thinks she’s a psychiatrist and the person with a BA. I have bipolar and thanks to the kind of thinking touted by the neurologist, went off my meds, became psychotically depressed, and almost killed myself (and my fetus, incidentally). The personal theory about using cognitive techniques coupled with the rest of the post which encourages women to grin and bear it is veering perilously close to bootstrapping in my view. CBT changed my life for the better, but I still need meds. Many of us do. Why not use your phd to study real causes instead of invoking your credentials in support of your educated guesses?

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