If you and your pregnant partner are feeling anxious about a recent raft of headlines suggesting that antidepressants can double the risk of your soon-to-be-born kid having autism, you might both be able to take a chill pill. It’s a mind-bending stat, but experts would like you to take it with a dose of reality.
The study of over 140,000 babies in JAMA Pediatrics found that when women took antidepressants during their second or third trimester, the risk for autism in their babies shot up 87 percent. And while you could be forgiven for dumping all your partner’s Zoloft in the toilet after reading that, Anick Berard, the study researcher herself put the number into context for Time: Because the actual risk of babies diagnosed with autism is tiny — about one percent — the “increase” (or 87 percent) still puts the risk under 2 percent (or 1.87), which is still statistically very low.
Another huge caveat: There’s some evidence that depression itself can cause autism, as opposed to the pills people take for depression. And, since the aforementioned study only looked at when prescriptions were filled and whether or not the baby has autism — as opposed to other signals like howdepressed the mothers were, or what the dosage of their medication was — drawing any broad conclusions is definitely against doctor’s orders.
Meanwhile, yet another study finds that untreated depression can have other negative impacts on fetal development. None of this is to say your partner should or shouldn’t take antidepressants while pregnant. It simply reiterates that no one should be self medicating (or not self medicating, as the case may be) based on what they read on the internet.