Autism and Antidepressants in Pregnancy: Don't Freak Out

Posted by: , July 10, 2011 in 9:54 am

keep calmYou did not cause your child’s autism.  No matter what you ate, took, smoked, drank, or did during your pregnancy, you didn’t cause it.  It’s not your fault.  A handful of studies have come out recently linking autism to the environment, including the environment in the womb. 

In particular, one study, which followed fewer than 300 families, found that taking antidepressants during pregnancy may be connected to a higher risk of autism for the baby.

It’s not a causative link; it’s a correlative link. In other words, maybe moms who reach out for mental health support for themselves are more likely to reach out for diagnoses for their children.

I hope that the mainstream media, before writing frightening headlines, takes the time to interview experts in prenatal mental health.  I also hope that women who are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, talk to their ob/gyns and their mental health professionals about the risks and benefits of taking medications while pregnant.

Nontreatment of depression during pregnancy has its own risks, including preterm birth, growth problems, and a potentially much greater risk of postpartum depression.

There is so much we don’t know about autism.  I’m glad that studies are ongoing, and I’d like to see larger studies done on this topic.  In the mean time, let’s not freak out.

We parents of special needs children have enough guilt, worry, and stress in our lives, without trying to figure out if five years ago, we made all the right choices.  For those of us with autistic kids, this study kind of doesn’t matter at all.  Today I will keep teaching Little Dude how to communicate; I will work with him on potty training; I will help him develop a better tolerance for frustration.  Nothing on CNN is going to change those plans.

Also, please heed my warning: reading a two-sentence news bullet point doesn’t actually make random people qualified to ask me about my pregnancy history with my autistic son. Unless you’re my son’s neurologist, or maybe Oprah, it would be kind of awesome, in fact, if you would just shut the hell up about it.


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