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New Research Questions the Link Between Antidepressants and Autism

Every day it seems like there’s a new study that’s either finding or debunking a possible link, cause, or reason why autism seems to be on the rise. Back in 2002, 1 in 150 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — that number has jumped to 1 in 68 as of 2012. So it’s no wonder why everyone is looking for explanations. A recent study is giving us some answers… but not in the way you might think.

Antidepressants and Autism

When the scientific world set out to understand the root of autism, pregnant women’s antidepressant prescriptions were labeled as a possible influence. Several studies linked the use of meds such as Prozac and Zoloft during gestation to the development of autism in children. These studies looked at maternal prescription use and the rate of autism diagnosis, and their findings suggested that taking antidepressants while pregnant correlated with a higher chance of having a child with autism.

Keep in mind, this wasn’t just one teeny-tiny study that found a link. Several studies, conducted by different researchers, all found the same thing.

Finding Flaws and New Analysis

Even though there was some sort of acceptance of this research, not every academic believed that the association implied an actual cause, or that the link was even really there. Two different research teams had their own suspicions that previous studies on antidepressants and autism were flawed. So, the researchers did what scientists do — they tried to prove their hypothesis that the previous studies hadn’t accounted for all the variables.

One research team looked at about 36,000 children in Canada. Roughly 2,800 of these kiddos were exposed to antidepressants in utero. Two percent of those children were later diagnosed with ASD. The second group of scientists reviewed data from more than 1.5 million Swedish children. They considered whether the mothers took antidepressants, how siblings fared, and whether the other parent took antidepressants or not.

When the researchers (on both teams) took other factors into account, such as siblings and paternal antidepressant use, the main effects seen in the previous studies kind of disappeared. There was little to no increased chance of autism, according to these new studies.

Looking Forward

The new research isn’t definitive. While it does pose new questions about the previously held belief that maternal antidepressant use during pregnancy raises the odds of the child being autistic, it doesn’t rule it out. Antidepressants cross the placenta, which means they may affect an unborn baby. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a cause of autism — as the new studies demonstrate.

The one thing researchers do know for sure is that they need more studies on the subject. The more these hypotheses are studied, the more accurately academics will be able to determine what is (and isn’t) true.

Depression is serious business. Yes, it’s completely common to feel a bit teary or more emotional than usual during pregnancy. Thanks, hormones! But diagnosed depression is an entirely different beast. Antidepressants can significantly help people who suffer from mental illness and completely change their quality of life. If you’re taking meds for depression and plan to get pregnant, talk to your doctor. You’ll want to discuss how to minimize risks to your baby while keeping yourself safe and watching out for your own needs too.

What do you think about the new research? Tweet us your opinion @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)

Erica Loop
Erica Loop is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh. When she's not busy creating kids' activities for her blog Mini Monets and Mommies, you can find her trying to hang out with her teenage son, being chased by her two Olde Boston Bulldogs or teaching a children's karate class (she's a third degree black belt!).

Ahhh, fall. There are so many things to love about this time of year (give us ALL the sweaters and pumpkin-flavored eats). But, high on the list comes autumn decor candles, throws, textiles — you name it. Of course, buying items and actually adding them to your room are two different things. So we're turning to Instagram for the best styling advice and inspo for the season. Scroll on to see everything you need to get those wheels turning!

@sbkliving: Sometimes, it only takes a chic doormat to transition your front steps for the season. Hello, fall!

@rachelpuccetti: Excuse us while we spend an entire lazy Sunday relaxing in this fall-infused space.

@farmhousetofrills: A monochrome mantel never looked so chic. (That fireplace pumpkin setup is seriously *genius*.)

@faith_hope_home: Greet guests with a fall-themed entrance to set the tone for a day of pumpkin carving or scary movie marathoning.

@simplysoutherncottage: Don't forget about those nooks and crannies! This entryway/mudroom situation is capturing our little harvest-loving hearts.

@6thirtydecor: Speaking of pumpkins, pick up a few extra gourds to pave the way into your cozy autumn abode.

@farmsteadonfirst: That guest bedroom you weren't sure what to do with it? Transform it into a rustic retreat with some fall signage and mustard-yellow and green accents.

@fiddleleafinteriors: We're going to take a second to *swoon* over this adorable kitchen setup. Those farmhouse accents and simple centerpiece setup? We're in love.

@ohmydearblog: Contrary to what you think, florals *aren't* just for spring. Bring them into your abode by selecting buds in moody tones to pay homage to the season.

@simply.mrs.z: Drawn to modern style? Play up the Halloween vibes by picking black, orange and brass accents to rock on places like your bookshelf. (Bonus points for carrying the theme over to your textiles.)

@drivewaytodreams_crystal: We're going to go ahead and give two thumbs up to all of these orange-hued accents. Backdropped with a neutral furnishings and they truly *pop*!

@cripcollectiveig: For those who don't want to go overboard with the "fall stuff" this one will speak to you. Compile a couple of cute throws and a minimalist pumpkin print on your mantle and you're set

@cavcottage: Who said fun pillows were limited to furnishings only? We're ALL about this entry display.

@houseon77th: This daybed setup is a *dream*. But actually, this would be the perfect space to doze off in come the colder days.

@kristenforgione: For a more festive Halloween look, overhaul your living space with a spooky handmade addition like this one. *Googles paper bat DIYs.*