Maternal depression is considered a risk factor for developmental disorders, like autism and ADHD. The choice to take antidepressant medication during pregnancy can be difficult. A new study led by an Indiana University professor finds that taking these medications during early pregnancy may be safer than previously thought.
Indiana University psychology and brain science professor Brian D’Onofrio says a link between the use of antidepressants during pregnancy and developmental disorders in a child is well established.
“But the key question is whether or not that increased risk is due to the medication itself or other factors that led to a woman using the antidepressants in the first place,” D’Onofrio says.
The study finds the medication itself does not appear to be the problem. The study followed more than 1.5 million infants from Sweden over a 12-year period so researchers could control for a number of factors. D’Onofrio says their findings point to other issues besides medication.
“It could be due to genetic factors that influence depression in the mothers and problems in the children, it could be due to poor prenatal care,” says D’Onofrio.
In recent years a number of organizations have called for universal depression screening for pregnant women
D’Onofrio says the study raises other questions.
“How do you treat depression? How do you treat mental illness? What would be best for these women and children?” D’Onofrio says.