You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

Study: Taking Antidepressants During Pregnancy Nearly Doubles the Risk of an Autism Diagnosis New research finds that taking antidepressants during the second or third trimester of pregnancy increased the chance of the child being diagnosed with autism by 87 percent.

By Laura Entis

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Autism rates have risen sharply over the last decade. In 2000, one in 150 children was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, that number has swelled to one in 68, according to the CDC. Factors such as better detection and awareness contribute to increase in diagnosis, but experts also believe there are environmental factors at play.

New research, published today in JAMA Pediatrics, may have unearthed one of them: antidepressant use during pregnancy.

The study, which followed more than 145,000 children from their conception to the age of 10, found that those born to mothers who had taken antidepressants during the second or third trimester of pregnancy were 87 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism by age 7.

Related: How to Create an Autism-Friendly Workplace

In total, based on mothers' prescription filling data, more than 4,700 infants were exposed to antidepressants in utero; of those, slightly over 2,500 were exposed during the second and/or third trimester. Using hospital records, the researchers then identified children who had received an autism spectrum diagnosis. "Finally, we looked for a statistical association between the two groups," Anick Bérard, the study's lead author, said in a statement. They found a significant one: Compared to children whose mothers had not taken antidepressants, or had only done so during the first trimester, these children were nearly twice as likely to receive an autism diagnosis. (Although, as autism experts not involved with the research have pointed out, because only 31 children developed autism in the study, the sample size is small enough that the risk factor is easily influenced by chance findings.)

Bérard speculated the association has to do with antidepressants' impact on brain development in the womb. "Serotonin is involved in numerous pre- and postnatal developmental processes," she said. "Some classes of anti-depressants work by inhibiting serotonin, which will have a negative impact on the ability of the brain to fully develop and adapt in-utero."
An estimated 13 percent of U.S. women take antidepressants at some point during their pregnancy. It's important to note, however, that the implications of the JAMA Pediatric study do not mean there is a consensus among researchers about the link between antidepressants and autism.
One reason for uncertainty is the possibility that mothers with depression are more likely than nondepressed women to have children with autism, regardless of whether they take antidepressants during pregnancy.
"This study doesn't answer the question," Bryan King, program director of the autism center at Seattle Children's Hospital, told NPR.
Laura Entis is a reporter for's Venture section.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.


A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Make Money With Facebook Ads, According to Experts

Creating the right message is a crucial first step to making money with Facebook ads, but it doesn't end there. This guide will help you create ads that actually convert.

Business News

A Surprising Number of U.S. Couples Have Secret Financial Accounts, According to a New Survey — And Most Have Not Talked About a Key Retirement Question

Two in five Gen X and young Boomer couples surveyed do not have a financial plan in place for retiring together.

Business News

Elon Musk Says New X Users Will Soon Have to Pay to Post on the Platform

X tested the initiative in New Zealand and the Philippines to combat the platform's bot problem.

Business Models

Why the Coaching Industry Is Poised for Transformative Growth in the Gig Economy Era — and How to Navigate the Waves of Change

This article highlights five trends shaping the coaching industry and offers insights into how entrepreneurs can adapt and thrive in this evolving landscape.