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SSRI Antidepressant Autism Risk Questioned By New Study

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A new study appears to contradict recent research that raised concerns about a link between the use of SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy and an increased risk of children being born with autism.  

In a study published last month in the medical journal Clinical Epidemiology, Danish researchers indicate that they found no association between autism and use of the popular class of antidepressants, which includes Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor and other widely used medications.

Researchers from Aarhus University looked at data from more than 600,000 children born between 1996 and 2006 in this new study, which was the largest survey so far dealing with links between pregnancy antidepressants and autism.

According to the findings, the difference in autism rates was insignificant among subjects studied when comparing women who took antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to those who did not.

“After controlling for important confounding factors, there was no significant association between prenatal exposure to antidepressant medication and autism spectrum disorders in the offspring,” the researchers concluded.

The findings contradict a study published in April in the British Medical Journal, which indicated that there is a link between parental depression, antidepressant use and the risk of autism. That study, which looked at 4,429 cases of autism and more than 40,000 controls, finding that women who took any antidepressant while pregnant were about twice as likely to give birth to a child that would later test on the autism spectrum. 

In July 2011, researchers from Kaiser Permanente reported that the use of SSRI antidepressants while pregnant was linked to twice the risk of giving birth to an autistic child.

Antidepressant Pregnancy Concerns

In addition to autism, many popular antidepressants have 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 has 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, Paxil lawsuits and Effexor 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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