An animal study in which rats were given antidepressants may contribute to understanding developmental disorders in children.
Rats given selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during development exhibited brain abnormalities and behaviours characteristic of autism spectrum disorders in a joint study at the University of Mississippi and the University of California.
Dr C.S. Lin, principal investigator on the study, stated: "We saw behaviours in the treated rats and neurological problems that indicate their brains are not properly conducting and processing information."
The research acts as the first step in proving that pregnant women who take SSRIs could risk autism spectrum disorders in their unborn child.
However, Dr Lin is keen to stress that it is too premature to conclude that this is the case and women could do more harm to their child through untreated depression.
In a human study, it was found that selective SSRI's taken in early pregnancy may moderately increase the risk of autism spectrum disorders.
Researchers reported a two-fold increased risk of autism associated with maternal treatment with SSRI during the year before delivery.
The strongest effect was associated with first trimester treatment; with utero exposure to anti-depressant medications reported in 6.7 per cent of subjects with autistic spectrum disorders.
Find out about Barchester's support for adults and children with a wide range of Autistic spectrum conditions.