Pre-Natal Antidepressant Use Linked to ADHD Risk: Study
Expecting mothers who take antidepressants may be more likely to have children that will one day be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to the findings of a new study.
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital examined the connection between pre-natal antidepressant exposure and autism, but suggest that they may have found a potential link to ADHD instead. The findings were published online this week by the medical journal Molecular Psychiatry.
The study looked at data from 1,377 children diagnosed with autism and 2,243 children diagnosed with ADHD in New England, comparing them to children born without either syndrome. At first blush, it appeared that children were more likely to be born with autism when their mothers took antidepressants. However, researchers said that once you factored out the possibility that having mothers with severe depression may be a more determining factor, researchers could find no correlation.
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When they looked at children with ADHD, however, they did find a statistically significant link between antidepressant use and a later ADHD diagnosis, even when factoring in severe depression cases. However, the researchers indicated that if such an increased risk does exist, and is not caused by some other confounding factor, it is a small one.
“These results suggest that the risk of autism observed with prenatal antidepressant exposure is likely confounded by severity of maternal illness, but further indicate that such exposure may still be associated with ADHD risk,” the researchers concluded. “this risk, modest in absolute terms, may still be a result of residual confounding and must be balanced against the substantial consequences of untreated maternal depression.”
Pre-Natal Antidepressant Risks
About 20% of women in the U.S. are prescribed an antidepressant during pregnancy, and this study is just the latest research connecting use of antidepressants during pregnancy with potential long-term effects on children. It also contradicts some studies which have linked the pre-natal use of antidepressants to an increased risk of autism.
In April, a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that pregnant women who use of a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were three times as likely to give birth to a boy with autism compared to women who do not take the drugs.
Many popular antidepressants have also been linked to a risk of serious health problems for children exposed to the medication before birth, including septal heart defects, skull malformations, neural tube defects, abdominal defects, spina bifida and other serious injuries.
Recent studies have also found that antidepressant use in pregnancy may increase the risk of seizure problems and delay of infant development milestones, such as sitting and walking are affected by antidepressant use during pregnancy.
Pregnancy antidepressant use may also been linked to an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN), which is a serious respiratory disorder that may cause insufficient blood flow to the lungs, leading to serious and potentially life-threatening problems.
In recent years, a growing number of Zoloft lawsuits and Paxil lawsuits have been filed in courts throughout the United States on behalf of children born with defects and malformations after exposure to the medication during pregnancy. The complaints allege that the manufacturers of the medications failed to adequately research the risks associated with use of the antidepressant in pregnancy, or provide proper warnings to women about the risk of becoming pregnant while using the medication.
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