Study Reports: Anti-anxiety Meds + Pregnancy May Double Autism Risk

Study Reports: Anti-anxiety Meds + Pregnancy May Double Autism Risk

Pregnancy is a huge physical challenge yet little attention is given to the mental strain women can endure during and after this time. Not only is it a rollercoaster ride of grand proportions that practically turns one’s body on its head, but emotionally it can make some women feel as if they are untethered from themselves.

This has spawned a nation of anti-anxiety medicated pregnant women willing to take anything a doctor prescribes just to get their brain back. For those that struggle with anxiety prior to becoming pregnant, many of these meds are continued during their pregnancy terms.

Now, a recent study shows that these medications, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), could double the risk of having an autistic child.

Once Benign

Throughout conventional medicine history there have been a number of missteps regarding proper pharmaceutical protocol. For SSRI’s, it was believed they were safe enough to take in the second and third trimesters.

Still on the WebMD Pregnancy and Antidepressants post,

“One study found that between 1998 and 2005, nearly one out of every 20 women reported using an antidepressant three months before becoming pregnant or during the pregnancy…research is showing that many antidepressants, especially the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and older medications, are generally safe.”

Now A Danger

Working with natural remedies for anxiety or depression before, during and after pregnancy may be a better choice.

According to a study by Canadian researchers on the effects of antidepressants during pregnancy, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, it was concluded that,

“Use of antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, during the second and/or third trimester increases the risk of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] in children, even after considering maternal depression.”

Two other studies, one published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (AJP) and one by researchers at Harvard, reported similar findings.

The study in AJP concluded that,

“In a large national birth cohort, treatment of maternal psychiatric disorders with SSRIs during pregnancy was related to a lower risk of preterm birth and cesarean section, but a higher risk of neonatal maladaptation.”

The Harvard report also mentions an additional potential risk,

“Harvard scientists analyzing electronic medical records reported that children who were exposed to antidepressants in the womb were at 80 percent increased risk of ADHD. Among the 2,532 babies whose mothers took an SSRI during her second and/or third trimester of pregnancy, 31 infants (or 1.2 percent) would be diagnosed with autism some time in his or her first six years of life.”

Alternative Treatments

The Canadian study’s senior author and perinatal pharmaco-epidemiologist, Anick Bérard of the Université de Montréal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre, comments:

“Depression needs to be treated during pregnancy but with something other than antidepressants in the majority of cases”.

Always check with your physician and naturopathic doctor to determine the best alternative non-drug treatment for anxiety or depression during pregnancy.

Some recommendations include:

Omega-3 fatty Acids – Although more research is recommended, a study by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center published in Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that, “Epidemiologic data have shown that low seafood intake during pregnancy correlates with higher levels of depressive symptoms during pregnancy.”

Homeopathy – Some turn their noses up at the 400+ year old practice of homeopathy yet others swear by its healing capability. For tackling anti-anxiety and depression during pregnancy, homeopathy is one of the safest choices.

Some remedies include:

  • Argentum nitricum
  • Arsenicum
  • Ignatia
  • Pulsatilla
  • Rescue Remedy

Bright Light Therapy – Relieves depression associated with seasonal change lighting during pregnancy.

St. John’s Wort – Check with your doctor but St. John’s Wort is an herb that has been used to calm nerves and ease depression for centuries.

Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., FAPA (Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association), IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) reports that,

“When researchers have compared St. John’s wort to Zoloft and Paxil, St. John’s wort was as effective as medications and patients reported fewer side effects. It is safe for breastfeeding, but some have expressed caution about its use during pregnancy.”

If you need antidepressants during pregnancy you may want to try some of these or other natural remedies first. Add in exercise too; a good workout raises serotonin and other feel good chemicals. Regardless, it is essential to use professional guidance for depressive or anxiety symptoms during pregnancy.