“Pregnant women who take anti-depressants ‘could raise their child's risk of ADHD',” reports the Mail Online, saying that this could explain “the rise in children with short attention spans”. The study in question compared children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) with children without these conditions. It found that children with ADHD, but not those with ASD, were more likely to have had mothers who took antidepressants during pregnancy.
More than one in 10 Americans take an antidepressant, and that number jumps to one in four among women aged 50 to 64. Theyre the most commonly prescribed class of medication other than antibiotics, but despite their overwhelming popularity theres an important question that needs to be answered: do they work?
A Closer Look at Antidepressant Research
A study in the January 2010 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that there is little evidence that SSRIs (a popular group of antidepressants that includes Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and others) have any benefit to people with mild to moderate depression (the group to which theyre most often prescribed), and they work no better than a placebo. Those researchers concluded:
The magnitude of benefit of antidepressant medication compared with placebo increases with severity of depression symptoms and may be minimal or nonexistent, on average, in patients with mild or moderate symptoms.
A meta-analysis published in …
This study suggests a potential link between women taking antidepressants during pregnancy and an increased risk of ADHD, but not ASDs, in their children. The limitation to this type of study is that factors other than the antidepressants, such as the depression itself, or genetic factors increasing both depression and ADHD risk, might be causing the effect seen. The researchers used various methods to take this into account, but acknowledge that other factors could still be having an effect. While the link with ADHD remained significant after taking maternal depression into account, it did not remain significant after taking into account measures of how severe the woman’s illness was.
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