Antidepressants Cause Autism? Stop Jumping To Conclusions!

Could this baby have autism?

Babies are precious. But antidepressants aren't evil. *

Did you know that antidepressants cause autism? Well, no one else did either—until today.

All the major news outlets are screaming about a new study which claims that autism and antidepressant use are linked. The extremely small study, which examined fewer than 300 autistic kids, found that their mothers were more than twice as likely as mothers with “healthy” children to have taken antidepressants.

Now, keep in mind that even the lead researcher is urging caution.

Time Magazine reports: “Lisa Croen, Ph.D., the director of autism research at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, a large nonprofit health plan based in Oakland, emphasizes the preliminary nature of her team’s findings. “This is the first study of its kind to look at the association, and the findings have to be interpreted with a lot of caution,” she says. “We can’t detect causality from one study.'”

But what do you think mothers dealing with depression are going to do with these accusatory headlines? Especially when they’re coupled with  statements  like this one from Fox News? “Results indicated a doubling in risk of autism if the mother filled a prescription for antidepressants at any point in the year before delivery.”

A lot of them are going to freak the hell out, that’s what.

A person dealing with depression often isn’t feeling too terribly rational. Most of us are already playing the blame game—feeling guilty for being depressed in the first place, and wishing we weren’t such a burden on everyone around us.

So, how big of a leap do you think it would be for a woman in that condition to decide that her antidepressant use is almost certainly dooming her unborn child to a life spent battling autism? And from there to further decide that she has to throw her pills out the window or spend the rest of eternity in Bad Mommy Hell?

All this despite the fact that we have incontrovertible proof that untreated depression during pregnancy poses serious risks to both mom and baby—risks that can also lead to developmental problems.

My point?

The media is doing both pregnant women and children a disservice by jumping to conclusions so quickly. Maybe antidepressants do aid in the development of autism. Or maybe those babies developed autism because of environmental factors having nothing to do with the antidepressant use. It’s going to take more than a small study of 298 children to decide.

Can we please approach this with a tiny bit of caution? Lives—both big and small—may be at stake, after all.

*Photo courtesy of Bradley P. Johnson.


8 Comments on Antidepressants Cause Autism? Stop Jumping To Conclusions!

  1. Amber
    July 5, 2011 at 10:26 pm (5 years ago)

    So very true and precisely written, Amber! I actually work as a scientist and no firsthand the danger in drawing conclusions from a limited data set. They should not be putting this out in the public domain so prematurely. It’s irresponsible and shame on mainstream media promoting this story without a more in depth study having taken place.

    I cringe thinking about all the women out there who may stop taking medicines they need because of this.

    • Amber
      July 6, 2011 at 9:15 am (5 years ago)

      I know. It’s terrible. I can’t help but think they’re only doing it for the publicity… which is wrong.

  2. Rebecca
    July 5, 2011 at 10:43 pm (5 years ago)

    Just this week I read that it was genetics in combination with the temperature of the uterus or something like that.

    • Amber
      July 6, 2011 at 9:14 am (5 years ago)

      Right. They just don’t know. So, in my humble opinion, they shouldn’t go off half-cocked!

  3. Jen
    July 6, 2011 at 8:42 am (5 years ago)

    I saw this new report and all I could do was shake my head.

    The media really needs to stop reporting such things until all the facts are in.

    • Amber
      July 6, 2011 at 9:13 am (5 years ago)

      The first headline made me angry. Then, when I realized how many organizations were jumping on the bandwagon, I saw red. Which is why you guys were subjected to this post…I’ll try and go back to being funny today.

  4. Erin
    July 6, 2011 at 6:07 pm (5 years ago)

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention – I am disgusted by this report that will only inflame an already hot topic –

    I have been on antidepressants for 4 years and will most likely ALWAYS be.

    My heart breaks for those women who will read this study and feel guilt and fear for thier unborn children – that is added stress for persons (women) who are already struggling with the disease of depression & anxiety.

    and furthermore – I have been taking antidepressants (Lexapro) for 5 years and have three healthy, amazing children I continued to take Lex even while preg. with #3 and now with #4 on the way – I will be breastfeeding straight though as well – I feel very secure in my decsion to ensure my mental stability while raising my family.

    The end.

    • Amber
      July 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm (5 years ago)

      Damn straight. I took mine while breastfeeding (during my short career). You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and no one should be able to make you feel guilty for it!


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