Zoloft, other antidepressants being linked to autism risk

According to a report from Time this month, a group of antidepressants are being linked to a greater risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The report states that studies show women taking some of these antidepressants are twice as likely to give birth with an autistic child as those who don’t take them.

Time says that the research was taken on serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), a major class of drugs that include Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, among others. These SSRI’s have already been the focus of continued controversy surrounding a link to many other birth defects.

The report states that it was based off a 1,800 child study which measured nearly 300 children with ASD being analyzed against 1,500 kids without the disorder. A major hurdle for the research is the fact that family depression and anxiety are generally common within those with ASD. Time reports that researchers used specific methods to separate the contributing factors.

The article states that researchers found little to no association with maternal depression when studying the treatment methods. This means that they were able to take a singular view on the risk of antidepressant treatment during pregnancy as a possible connecter to ASD in children.

Moving forward, these results seem to present a rather tough decision for pregnant women in the coming future. Time reports that around 10 percent of women are regularly treated for depression during their pregnancy and leaving it untreated could be dangerous for the child as well.

The report states that representatives at the Autism Research Program (they ran the research) are still suggesting that women keep taking their medication, regardless of the findings. Time mentioned that SSRI antidepressants are all currently classified as Category C, which means they haven’t been proven safe or unsafe for women who are pregnant.

As previously stated, this is not the first time these SSRI antidepressants have been an issue for pregnant women. Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac, along with numerous others have been linked to birth defects for some time now. They range from Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension and other heart defects, to cleft lip and palate, as well as limb defects, among others.

Given the history of SSRI’s and their connection with other birth defects, this news is critically important. These recent findings linking antidepressant use during pregnancy to autism within children will certainly continue to spark conversation and further investigation into a more detailed view of the relationship between the two.


Park, Alice. (July 5, 2011). “Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy Linked to Higher Risk of Autism.” Retrieved on July 6, 2011 from Time