We are all aware that whatever a pregnant woman puts in her body, her unborn child will be taking as well. So it is obvious that these women would avoid things that would cause their child harm, like certain foods, alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes. These things aren’t healthy for anybody, so are easy enough to avoid. But what about things that we think are good for us, but are actually quite the opposite.
A study recently published in JAMA Pediatrics used data from the Quebec Pregnancy Cohort and studied 145,546 between the time of their conception to the age of ten. While there were other factors that were linked to autism, including family history, maternal age, and certain socio-economic factors, these were all accounted for in the study.
For this study, an exposure to antidepressants was defined as the mother having had one or more prescriptions for antidepressants filled during either the second or third trimester of her pregnancy.
The researchers suspected that because serotonin plays such an integral part in various prenatal and postnatal processes, these prescribed antidepressants that inhibit serotonin (more commonly known as SSRIs) have a negative effect on the ability of the child’s brain to fully develop in-utero.
When asked about the results of the study, senior author Professor Anick Bérard, University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center had this to say:
“Using antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), during the 2nd/3rd trimesters of pregnancy increases the risk of having a child with autism (87 percent increased risk of autism with any antidepressants; more than doubling the risk with SSRI use specifically) – this risk is above and beyond the risk associated with maternal depression alone (maternal depression was associated with a 20 percent increased risk of autism in our study). Given the mounting evidence showing increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcome with antidepressant use during pregnancy, our study shows that depression should be treated with other options (other than antidepressants) during this critical period.”
“Indeed, 80-85 percent of depressed pregnant women are mildly to moderately depressed; exercise and psychotherapy have been shown to be efficacious to treat depression in this sub-group. Therefore, we acknowledge that depression is a serious condition but that antidepressants are not always the best solution.”
While it is commonly thought that the first trimester is the one where the fetus is the most at risk, when it comes to brain development the second and third trimesters are the most critical. The increase in antidepressant medication is a major factor in the increase number of children being placed somewhere on the autism spectrum.
Professor Bérard wishes that people learn from this study that there prescribed antidepressants aren’t the only ways to combat depression. Depression is a serious disease that affects a multitude of people, not only pregnant women.
There are many ways to naturally fight depression that have been backed by science, including exercise and psychotherapy. These are effective for pregnant and nonpregnant women alike.
It is important to understand the delicate processes our body has and respect the balance that not only keeps us healthy, but those we care about as well. Pregnancy is a beautiful thing and shows the connection between body and environment. Always question if you really need that medication or if there is a better more natural solution.