Kaiser Permanente Logo A recent report put forth the importance of fMRI for better diagnosis of autism. According to a study by Kaiser Permanente, women who are exposed to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors anti – depressants in the early stages of pregnancy may mildly raise the risk of autism spectrum disorders. However, scientists state that the number of children facing exposure prenatally to SSRIs was apparently low and so further trails are essential to affirm the results.

This was a population-based case-control study of 1,805 children that examined the link between prenatal SSRI exposure and ASD risk. Reportedly, a two-fold increased risk of ASD was related to maternal treatment with antidepressants in the year before the delivery date. Seemingly, the first trimester treatment presented the strongest effect. Also, utero exposure to antidepressant medications was supposedly reported in 6.7 percent of cases and 3.3 percent of controls.

“Our results suggest a possible, albeit small, risk to the unborn child associated with in utero exposure to SSRIs, but this possible risk must be balanced with risk to the mother of untreated mental health disorders,” explained Lisa Croen PhD, director of the Autism Research Program at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.

A set of 298 children with ASD and 1,507 children were randomly selected for the study. Information on maternal treatment of antidepressants, maternal mental health history, autism and demographic features were gathered. The maternal age, ethnicity, education and child’s birth mass, gender, year of birth, and kind of birth were suitably adjusted. It was found that mothers of kids who were tested positive for ASD seemingly had 2 times higher chances of having consumed a minimum of 1 antidepressant in the year before the delivery of the child. They also had apparently 3 times higher chances of consuming the tablets in the first trimester of pregnancy.

To comprehend if the ASD risk could be associated to SSRI treatment instead of the woman’s depression or anxiety for which she took the pills, analysts examine a subset of women with a history of mental health disorders in the year prior to delivery. ASD risk linked with SSRI during the year appeared high, but was not statistically prominent. Investigators also observed identifiers of different psychiatric disorders. In these women, the number of prior psychiatric hospitalizations and the average number of hospitalizations was apparently similar in cases as compared to the control group.

Many studies have put forth that unnatural levels of serotonin and serotonin pathways may play a role in autism. The scientists reveal that probability of prenatal SSRI exposure seems to execute directly in the developing brain. Precisely, it operates in fetuses with abnormal serotonin-related genes. Croen concludes that certain physiological changes that accompany maternal stress during pregnancy coupled with SSRI exposure may play a role in alterations on the fetal brain growth leading to ASD that is usually diagnosed later.

The study is published online in the current issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.