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Do antidepressants in pregnancy cause autism?

2013 May 10 by

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The studies

Another link between drugs and autism has been discovered. Two recent studies have shown an association between antidepressant use during pregnancy and an increased risk of autism in children. The risk of having an autistic child was doubled by the use of antidepressants taken during pregnancy.  A large Swedish study published in the British Medical Journal included more than 1,600 autistic children whose mothers took any kind of antidepressant during their pregnancy. The results showed an increased incidence of autism in the antidepressant group compared to a control group.

A second study published in 2011 showed a 2-fold increased risk of autism if mothers took antidepressants in the year before delivery and a 3-fold increased risk with antidepressant use in the first trimester of pregnancy. These results were compared to mothers with a known history of mental illness, but without use of antidepressants and their children did not show an increased risk of autism.

The reason

The authors suggest that the explanation for this association may be that antidepressants alter serotonin mechanisms in the brain of the fetus. Many autistic children have elevated levels of serotonin in the blood with deficient brain serotonin levels or abnormal serotonin synthesis or receptor binding. They also note that animal studies have shown that antidepressant use in pregnancy increases behavior abnormalities similar to autism in humans. 

Alternatives

There are natural methods for the treatment of depression. Start with a simple program of increased exercise, a whole foods diet, and adequate sleep. Of course depression itself as well as pregnancy can cause sleep disturbance. Calcium and magnesium are natural relaxants that can help sleep when taken before bed. A safe holistic program for depression during pregnancy may include supplements that balance neurotransmitters and improve sleep. Acupuncture is also a safe method to use for depression and sleep problems during pregnancy. Seek out a holistic practitioner who can develop a natural approach to depression which may include neurotransmitter testing and targeted nutritional supplements.

References

Rai D, Lee BK, Dalman C, et al. Parental depression, maternal antidepressant use during pregnancy, and risk of autism spectrum disorders: population based case-control study. British Medical Journal 2013;346:f2059 (Published 19 April 2013)

Croen LA, Grether JK, Yoshida CK, et al. Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy and Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(11):1104-1112

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More on Placentas and Autism

2013 April 30 by

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One of the lead researchers of the recent study that showed an association between an abnormal marker in placentas of babies at high risk of autism would like to have that test performed for all babies. Because of the dramatic results of their study that showed a remarkable correlation between this finding (trophoblast inclusions or TIs) in the placenta and the identification of babies at high risk for autism, we may be able to identify babies at birth who could benefit from nutritional interventions to prevent or treat autism.

Dr Harvey Kliman, lead researcher said, “I hope that diagnosing this risk by examining the placenta at birth will become routine and that the children who are shown to have increased numbers of [TIs] will have early interventions and an improved quality of life as a result of this test”

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The Placenta Predicts Risk of Autism

2013 April 26 by

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A recent study has confirmed that certain tissue changes in the placenta can actually predict the risk of autism in children. Researchers examined slides of placental tissue and looked for the presence of a type of folding called a trophoblast inclusion. They found that babies with a sibling who had been diagnosed with autism had more of these folds in their placentas than babies without an autistic sibling.

This study confirmed a previous study that showed children who later developed autism also had placentas with this characteristic at birth.

This is potentially a tool to identify children at greater risk for developing autism. Simply count the number of these inclusions in a tissue sample from the placenta. Those babies with four or more inclusions are at high risk of developing autism. None of those in the control group in these studies had these inclusions in their placentas.

A screening tool like this could allow holistic practitioners to focus their attention on these at risk babies and develop a nutritional program to treat autism before it manifests as symptoms. Several studies have also shown that early behavioral intervention results in greater gains for children with autism. Currently children with autism are seldom identified before 18 months of age and usually not until 2 or 3 years old. If we know that children at birth have a higher risk of developing autism, then we could intervene sooner.

References

Walker CK, Anderson KW, et al. Trophoblast inclusions are significantly increased in the placentas of children in families at risk for autism. Biological Psychiatry. 2013 April.

Anderson GM, Jacobs-Stannard A, Chawarska K, Volkmar FR, Kliman HJ. Placental trophoblast inclusions in autism spectrum disorder. Biological Psychiatry. 2007 Feb 15;61(4):487-91. Epub 2006 Jun 23.

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Vaccinated Children Have More ADHD, Autism, and Asthma

2011 February 23 by

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Another study has shown the dramatic association of children’s health problems with vaccines. This survey polled parents of vaccinated and unvaccinated children and compared the incidence of autism, ADHD, asthma, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) in the two groups.

When comparing 17,000 boys and girls in California and Oregon, the vaccinated children were 120 percent more likely to have asthma. In the group of 9,000 boys, those who were vaccinated were 224 percent more likely to have ADHD, 155 percent more likely to have a neurological disorder, and 61 percent more likely to have autism compared to unvaccinated boys. Girls only represented 20 percent of the neurological disorder cases, and this smaller sample size did not show any significant differences in prevalence between the vaccinated and unvaccinated girls.

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