Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 44, Issue 10, pp 2558–2567 | Cite as

In Utero Exposure to Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Nicole B. Gidaya
  • Brian K. Lee
  • Igor Burstyn
  • Michael Yudell
  • Erik L. Mortensen
  • Craig J. Newschaffer
Original Paper


We investigated whether there is an association between increased risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) used during pregnancy. This study used Denmark’s health and population registers to obtain information regarding prescription drugs, ASD diagnosis, and health and socioeconomic status. There were 1.5 % of cases and 0.7 % of controls exposed to SSRIs during the pregnancy period, and higher effect estimates observed with longer use. We found evidence that in utero exposure to SSRIs increases a child’s risk associated with ASD. These results, while adding to the limited knowledge on prenatal pharmacological exposures as potential ASD risk factors, need to be balanced against the benefits of indicated medication use by pregnant mothers.


Autism spectrum disorders Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors Pregnancy Depression 



We thank Karyn Heavner, Ph.D., for assisting with data management, and implementation of Monte Carlo simulations. Fees to access Denmark’s national’s registers were funded by Drexel University Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (Dr. Newschaffer). Dr. Gidaya’s travel was funded in part through a travel award through Drexel University.

Conflict of interest

All authors and declare: no support from any organization for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organizations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous 3 years; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole B. Gidaya
    • 1
  • Brian K. Lee
    • 1
  • Igor Burstyn
    • 1
  • Michael Yudell
    • 1
  • Erik L. Mortensen
    • 2
  • Craig J. Newschaffer
    • 3
  1. 1.Drexel University, School of Public Health, Nesbitt HallPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Institut for FolkesundhedsvidenskabUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen KDenmark
  3. 3.A.J. Drexel Autism InstituteDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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