Antidepressants and Obesity: Which of the 2 Increases Risk of Autism During Pregnancy?
Cures and causes for autism are constantly in the news, with researchers frantically working to identify the greatest risks and best treatments to ensure your child is born a healthy baby and grows up as his or her peers do. It may not always be easy, and science is still very far from correctly pinpointing the roots of autism or the most appropriate weapons in fighting the worst of it.
Parents often blame themselves. Blogs and articles exist all over the Web where mothers berate themselves for their child’s autism diagnosis. Things done during pregnancy, vaccinations given after birth, inducing or natural labor, medication taken over time, lack of proper nutrients pre-pregnancy, you name it, they say it. Often, this self-blame is quite groundless as well. After all, few read the actual scientific journals and Googling a problem you may have or a suspicion crossing your mind is possibly the worst advice you can seek. Doctors don’t always have the newest of research pinned down correctly either. It is no wonder mothers seek the root of the problems in their own actions taken.
Autism is a genetic disorder. It changes the lives of parents and children alike, making employment issues for mothers rather difficult and career paths for the children limited. Meltdowns become commonplace, sleep is constantly disturbed, and communication becomes a major issue.
Autistic children are very interesting, however. A few reasons that make make me smile include:
- The ability to see music or taste words that are read. I find it absolutely amazing that an autistic child might be able to do that.
- Characteristics that make them amazing students and with amazing future prospects. Teachers will find that high functioning autistic children are some of the best students in their classes, particularly in terms of organization and logical thinking.
- The extreme genius that could be born out of a genetic mutation known as a disorder.
First, let us debunk a myth that was taken as gospel until November 2013. A Danish study looking at mothers and their use of antidepressants on a larger scale found something rather interesting. While previous studies in the year had pointed towards a link between ingesting antidepressants while pregnant and the birth of autistic children, that link has now been severed quite soundly. Confounding factors were accounted for and the sample size was much broader this time around. 668, 468 mothers who had children between 1996 and 2006 were studied.
The result? After controlling for factors that might affect the result and removing mothers with affect disorder from the list, the hazard ratio was found to be 1.1, meaning that no real link exists between antidepressant medication taken during pregnancy and the birth of autistic children. Researchers found of that children exposed to SSRIs prenatally almost 2% had been diagnosed with autism, compared to 1.5% of children not exposed to SSRIs.
Now, a mother might not be at fault for birthing an autistic child, but she can be faulted for not taking certain precautions to lower the risk of having one. One of these risk factors is immense weight gain during pregnancy. Shocked? So are we. Yet, the facts are as this.
Healthy weight gain for pregnant women is as follows:
- -- Healthy weight: 25 to 35 pounds
- -- Underweight: 28 to 40 pounds
- -- Overweight: 15 to 25 pounds
- -- Obese: 11 to 20 pounds
Should weight gain exceed the healthy amount while expecting, a problem might develop. A group of 128 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder were compared in a Utah study to a control group of 10,920 children, all of them of the same age. Weight gain during pregnancy increases risk, as was found.
What about BMI before pregnancy? According to the study, a mother’s BMI at the onset of pregnancy was not linked to ASD in study groups included. “Doctors have known for a long time that proper nutrition is essential to a healthy pregnancy. Pregnant women should not change their diet based on these results. Rather, this study provides one more piece for the autism puzzle that researchers are exploring," remarked Deborah A. Bilder, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah.
In conclusion, you may take antidepressants in safe amounts during pregnancy, but careful about your diet and your weight if you want to reduce your risk of giving birth to a child with autism. Remember: having an autistic child does not necessary mean that you have done anything wrong (more often than not, it was not your fault at all), but you can make sure you stay safe and healthy and hope for the best.
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