Studies using data from Western countries have raised concerns that treating pregnant women with antidepressants may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in their offspring. However, to date, the studies are inconclusive. We therefore examined the association between antidepressant use and ASD using claims data collected in Japan.
This retrospective cohort study was based on claims data from mothers and their children from January 2005 to July 2014, obtained from the Japan Medical Data Center. The information from mothers and children was linked using the family identification code. Information on antidepressant prescriptions during pregnancy was extracted from the database. To collect information on ASD, children for whom data were available 24 months or more after birth were followed up from birth through July 2014 or up until their withdrawal from the database. To ensure appropriate diagnosis of ASD, mother-child pairs where the children’s data did not cover the 24 months after birth or pairs where children had a diagnosis of ASD within only 23 months after birth were excluded from the study cohort. We used logistic regression analyses to evaluate the association between antidepressant use during pregnancy and the children’s ASD diagnosis. All statistical analyses were performed using IBM SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) Statistics ver. 21.0.
Of the 53,864 eligible mother-child pairs, 26,925 met the study criteria. Crude analysis showed that the ASD prevalence in children was significantly higher with any antidepressant use than with non-use (odds ratio [OR], 2.32; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.08, 4.95). However, when the analysis was adjusted for the confounding effect of maternal depression during pregnancy, statistical significance was lost (OR, 0.76; CI, 0.27, 2.18).
After adjustment for confounders, we found no significant association between antidepressant use during pregnancy and ASD in children in Japan. This result provides additional evidence to support the idea that antidepressant use during pregnancy itself is not associated with an increase in ASD in children. In addition, this represents the first evidence based on Asian data.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.