Anti-Depressants & Pregnancy: a Breeding Ground for Autism?


There is new evidence that certain medications are linked to an increase of children developing autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD’s).  A recent study has connected certain psychiatric drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) to this heightened risk.  SSRI’s are often prescribed for depression.

While men’s sperm can be subject to DNA damage as a result of SSRI’s, women taking SSRI’s while pregnant may be putting their children at risk for an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The study, published in the April 14, 2014 edition of PEDIATRICS, indicates that there may be a link between SSRI’s and a higher risk of Autism, ASD’s, and other neurological developmental delays (DD’s).  Serotonin is critical to early brain development!

The study’s result showed that boys were three times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD if their mothers had been using SSRI’s during pregnancy, and the results were even higher if the mothers had been taking SSRI’s in the first trimester.  This higher risk factor also seemed to appear with boys, diagnosed with other kinds of DD’s, whose mothers used SSRI’s just in the second and third trimesters.

More studies need to be done (due to the small sample of girls in this particular study) to clarify whether the same results occur with girls, but it appears that prenatal exposure to SSRI’s may carry a greater risk of Autism/ASD’s/DD’s for boys.


Autism Speaks sums it up:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

With the May 2013 publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, all autism disorders were merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD.  ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances.

Autism appears to have its roots in very early brain development.  However, the most obvious signs of autism and symptoms of autism tend to emerge between 2 and 3 years of age.

Symptoms of autism/ADS may range from mild to severe:

  • Issues with communicating
  • Impaired social interactions
  • Behavioral issues
  • Issues with sleeping, eating, using toilet
  • Problems with gastrointestinal (GI) function
  • Deficiencies in nutrition (very limited/picky eaters)
  • Irregular immune system
  • Abnormal reactions to sensory input
  • Overdependence on strict routine
  • Poor sleep

Over the past decade, we’ve all heard the debate, “Do vaccines cause Autism?” … “Does mercury cause Autism?”  While I have seen patients in my private practice whose parents absolutely associated developmental delays with their childhood vaccinations, and while some might assume that I would take side on the stance that “vaccines cause Autism,” I will be the first to tell you that I have indeed worked with young, non-vaccinated children on the Autism Spectrum.  I’ve always known that we had to look beyond one particular villain or toxic agent, but rather explore the accumulated toxicities now affecting our children.  Studies like this do not give mercury a free pass, nor do they point the entire finger entirely at SSRI’s, but they do increase our collective consciousness that we’ve got to keep our prenatal and baby bodies as free from man-made chemicals as possible.

After and Avoiding a Diagnosis

I’ve not only seen patients do better with ASD’s when applying all five essentials of Maximized Living, but I’ve also seen parents do exceptionally well getting off SSRI’s using the same approach:

Chiropractic care

  • Spinal adjustments positively benefit the immune system, which is already under stress in ASD patients.  Chiropractic analysis of the upper cervical spine is paramount in cases of immune suppression and/or cognitive function.

Customized Nutrition

  • ASD patients are often picky eaters.  This can either be a result of gastrointestinal problems – or lead to further nutritional deficiencies.
  • I recommend the Advanced Nutrition Plan for anyone with GI or cognitive issues.
  • Specific food sensitivity testing may also be of value as key inflammatory foods are eliminated from one’s diet.  Quite often, there can be “healthy” foods causing a food sensitivity or inflammatory response.  Temporarily eliminating these triggers, while they are not always the primary causes of all issues, can reduce the inflammatory response while the body is healing.
  • It’s not all about elimination – Be sure to ADD IN plenty of good nutrients.  Check out hundreds recipes on my website and in my book for some great ideas that the whole family will love.


We have had great success, not just seeing our patients healthy again, but finding that they often no longer rely on medications. Ryan came off Concerta successfully through implementation of the 5 Essentials of Maximized Living:


Obviously, a good offence is your best defense for both you and your children. It is always best understand how to prevent the health issues that, if ignored can lead to the reliance on prescription medications, which in turn cause further health complications.  Cultivating good health habits are simply a matter of understanding the human body, mind and spirit and what you need to thrive.

Dr. B.J. Hardick

About Dr. B.J. Hardick

Raised in a holistic family, Dr. B.J. Hardick is the co-author of the best-selling Maximized Living Nutrition Plans, used in natural health clinics worldwide, and a contributing author for its follow-up publication, The Cancer Killers. Dr. Hardick shares his own journey dealing with heavy metal toxicity in Real Detox, his e-Book available on An organic food fanatic and green living aficionado, all Dr. Hardick’s passions are anchored in helping others achieve ecologically sound, healthy, and balanced lives. Learn More