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Autism Study Raises More Questions Than It Answers

A new study that associates antidepressant use in pregnancy with autism is no silver bullet.

Researchers in Quebec published findings in JAMA Pediatrics that found a slight increase of incidence of autism in children of women who used antidepressants during their pregnancy.

A leading obstetrician at the University of Rochester Medical Center says pregnant women should not be alarmed.

“This study doesn’t tell us what to do,"says Dr. Eva Pressman, chair of the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  "It doesn’t tell us that stopping the SSRI before, during, early or late in the pregnancy will improve the outcome for your child.

She cautions pregnant mothers not to make sudden changes. "You shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that what this study is telling you to do is to stop your medication,” she warns.

Other research studies haven’t found a link between maternal antidepressant use and autism in children. The study concludes the subject should be researched further.

Dr. Pressman says each patient is unique.

“We don’t know of any medications that are completely safe in pregnancy. We do know that many diseases left untreated are more dangerous than taking the medications,” says Pressman. She encourages patients to consult with their physicians.

Michelle Faust, MA, is a reporter/ producer whose work focuses strongly on issues related to health and health policy. She joined the WXXI newsroom in February 2014, and in short time became the lead producer on the Understanding the Affordable Care Act series. Michelle is a reporter with Side Effects and regularly contributes to The Innovation Trail. Working across media, she also produces packages for WXXI-TV’s weekly news magazine Need to Know.