Autism affects 1 in every 110 children and 1 in 70 boys. These astounding numbers have unfortunately made Autism a household name. Here at the University of North Carolina, we are lucky to have one of the top centers for learning and treatment of Autism, which has helped to draw many experts and researchers to our area. One of the major questions still debated about Autism is what causes the disease.
A study at Stanford University looked at identical twins, with the same genes, and fraternal twins, who share half of the same genes, to try to tease out about how much of autism is genetic and how much is environmental.
According to the article the rate of autism was really impacted as much, if not more so, by environment than by genetics. This type of information really pushes us to look at what factors could be involved so we can work to lower the risk of autism.
In a second related study, they actually did look at one particular factor in the environment, and that was whether mothers had taken an antidepressant within the year before delivery. They found that in that group, the risk was three times higher, particularly if the antidepressant was taken in the first trimester of pregnancy.
While this might sound astounding, it’s important to balance that risk with the needs of the mother and determine whether she can carry on her life and function without being on an antidepressant. It’s very important to talk directly with your doctor if you are on this type of medication and are pregnant or may become pregnant.