Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Putting autism risks in context

By Louise Kinross


It’s too bad this illustration that ran with a piece in the New York Times' Motherlode column about antidepressant use during pregnancy and risk of autism didn’t have a bubble beside it that read: “My baby has almost a 99 per cent chance of not having autism.”

Because that’s what the Canadian study found.

But the way most news stories are reporting it, you might come away only with this stat in your head: antidepressant use in pregnancy is associated with an 87 per cent increased risk of autism in children.

It is. But the baseline rate of autism is about 1.1 per cent. And the rate of autism in the children of moms taking antidepressants was still less than 2 per cent.

According to the March of Dimes, a woman has a 3 per cent chance of having a child with a birth defect. This means that the risk of having a child with any birth defect when the mom doesn't use antidepressants is higher than the increased risk for autism suggested by antidepressant use in this study. 

Only CBC seemed to get it right with this lead: "Taking antidepressants during pregnancy may slightly increase the risk of having a child with autism, but the chances of having a baby without the disorder are still about 98.8 per cent, new Canadian research suggests."

The CBC piece, which includes comment from Holland Bloorview neurologist and autism researcher Evdokia Anagnostou, explains why the study’s findings are more complicated than they initially appear.

You may find this piece we did earlier this year helpful: Making sense of autism risks.

Illustration by Allison Steen, reprint from the New York Times.


Healthy pregnancy start at healthy nutritional meal and modest exercises under sunlight. All artificial pharmaceutical mimic drugs might causes autism because human body can't process them.

Also, the autism-antidepressant link has been studied before, and it seems that the link isn't autism & antidepressants, but autism and prenatal depression. My theory is that undiagnosed autistic women are more likely to be depressed and therefore take antidepressants, and also likely to pass autism genes on to their children.