“Wombs of Doom” or “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Poisoning My Children with SSRIs”

Some days the internet is bursting with awesome!

I'm bloggin', chattin' with my buddies, shooting the shit with ASD parents...YEAH!

Some days the internet sucks:

For me, yesterday was one of the days I wished I could pee on the internet. The reason was because of the reaction to a couple of autism studies  just published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. One of those studies was an evaluation of whether there was a correlation between the use of anti-depressants by mothers in their prenatal period and an increased risk of ASD in their children. The following information is selected from the abstract of the study:

“[Participants] were 298 case children with ASD (and their mothers) and 1507 randomly selected control children (and their mothers)…Prenatal exposure to antidepressant medicationswas reported for 20 case children (6.7%) and 50 control children (3.3%). In adjusted logistic regression models, we found a 2-fold increased risk of ASD associated with treatment with [SSRIs] by the mother during the year before delivery (adjusted odds ratio, 2.2), with the strongest effect associated with treatment during the first trimester (adjusted odds ratio, 3.8). No increase in risk was found for mothers with a history of mental health treatment in the absence of prenatal exposure to [SSRIs].

Conclusion  Although the number of children exposed prenatally to [SSRIs] in this populationwas low, results suggest that exposure, especially during the first trimester, may modestly increase the risk of ASD. The potential risk associated with exposure must be balanced with the risk to the mother or fetus of untreated mental health disorders.Further studies are needed to replicate and extend these findings.”


So, small study (20 kids with ASD whose mothers were prescribed SSRIs) shows a modest increase in risk – study’s authors suggest additional, larger studies take place. Sounds reasonable to me. We’re good right, internet?

Unfortunately, internet’s response was “TEH ANTI-DEPRESSANTS CAUSE AUTISM!”

Here are some random quotes from twitter for your delectation and delight:

“SSRI use by women linked to autism in their children – I AM NOT AT ALL SURPRISED !!!”

“SSRIs (antidepressants) are linked to autism? I’m sure they are linked to something.. really scary.”

“Experts urge women not to stop taking SSRI’s during pregnancy. Why? Possibly doubling risk of autism no big deal? Docs don’t hesitate to warn women away from caffeine, warm baths, aspirin, sushi–all of which are topped by recent autism/SSRI results”

“New study shows possible link between ssris and autism in unborn children. Terrifying! My cousin’s Dr encouraged her to continue taking”

“Forget vaccines, its SSRIs that cause autism”

And my personal favourite:

“Attorneys Investigating Potential Claims Against SSRI Drugs Following Study Reporting SSRI Use During Pregnancy”

As I commented to a friend after reading just some of the comments and media coverage. “Wow, this is so… depressing”. It’s actually more than that though, its dangerous – and that makes me angry.

No SSRIs were involved in the making of this image

I have taken anti-depressants since 2004 when I had a major depressive episode. I have had one relapse since then. I have tried to reduce my dosage twice with the intention (hope) of stopping taking them completely. These efforts were not successful. I’ve discussed my situation at length with my doctor, psychiatrist and therapist, and all of them say the same thing – in my case depression is a chronic condition like high blood pressure or diabetes. I need to take medication in order to function. I’m not happy about it but I have come to accept it.

When I knew I wanted to try and get pregnant one of the first things I discussed with my doctor was whether I could safely stop taking anti-depressants. I was very keen on trying to stop but she encouraged me to do some research and then come back and discuss it with her some more. So I did. One of the really great resources for women who are either considering pregnancy or who are pregnant/breastfeeding is right here in Toronto. Motherisk is run by The Hospital for Sick Children – they have a phone line and a website http://www.motherisk.org/women/index.jsp I called the helpline and spoke to someone who suggested some reading material for me. I researched the information on their website. I discovered the following:

– Untreated depression in pregnancy has been linked to poor fetal outcomes including higher risk of spontaneous abortion, lower apgar scores, premature birth, low birth weight and babies with higher stress levels

– Untreated depression in pregnancy results in a higher likelihood of a c-section, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia

– Women who have a history of depression are much more likely to suffer from post-partum depression


I weighed the (at that time, hypothetical) risk of continuing to take SSRIs during pregnancy against the evidence that demonstrated a much higher risk of poor outcomes for both myself and my baby if I risked depression while pregnant. I decided to continue taking the SSRIs the entire time I was attempting to conceive, while I was pregnant and while I breastfed the twins. I am sure I made the right decision. What worries me is that fearmongering on the part of the media and those who don’t take the time to think this through will result in women deciding to stop taking medications that they absolutely need. This is endangering the health of both those women and their children (born and unborn).

Having said I am sure I made the right decision, I should also admit that this is only true at an intellectual level. Seeing people suggest that I made a decision which could have resulted in both of my children being autistic was extremely upsetting. As a friend of mine said on twitter, it’s just like refrigerator moms all over again, but much worse. Wouldn’t it be great if people could think twice before rushing to blame? I may not be catholic or Jewish but don’t they know I already have more than my fair share of misplaced guilt regarding my children?

Look at all these people rushing to tell me what failure I am as a mother - how sweet!

 Thanks to Jim Martin, @Gingerheaddad on twitter for coining the phrase “Wombs of Doom” and allowing me to use it in my post.

Yee haw! Let's poison those fetuses!

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29 Comments on ““Wombs of Doom” or “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Poisoning My Children with SSRIs””

  1. Jill July 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    An angry mob!! How delightful! 🙂

    • OMum22 July 7, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

      No pitchforks though – and all the torches are kinda pretty 🙂

  2. Blue July 6, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    There are so many possible “causes” out there… I think the best anyone can do at this point is what feels right to them, which it sounds like is exactly what you’ve done. People are so desperate for an explanation for the rising autism rates that they’re quick to judge and cast blame… which doesn’t help anyone, as you know. Keep listening to your gut, and keep your sense of humor 🙂

    • OMum22 July 7, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

      Exactly. This is a complex disorder which we may never entirely unravel. Lets accept our kids for who they are which is, by the way, amazing. I’m happy to let the scientists do their thing and wait for constructive recommendations based on data that’s been tested and verified.

  3. trishasmom July 6, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    I guess my question is who do “those” people blame when the mothers didn’t take SSRi drugs, or have their child vaccinated or didn’t do any kind of drugs, drinking, smoking, ate only organic foods and were perfect angels but still had a child with autism? Who are they going to seek out and blame then?

    My daughter has down syndrome and autism and is hearing impaired and I didn’t take any kind of drugs nor did I drink or smoke sometimes things just happen for reasons unknown to us and instead of just accepting it we have to find someone or something to blame to make ourselves feel good.

    Well, I do not need to blame others because I feel good about myself and I know I did not doing anything to cause anything my child has. She is who she is and I love her just as she is. She is NOT a mistake or punishment or from something I did, she is just the way she is supposed to be, it is society who needs to learn to be accepting of all no matter what their abilities. To be honest saying we want our children to be more like our “typical” children or more like society to me means that we are not accepting of our kids for who they are but want to change them to be like all others. I personally think being different is good thing because I’m not really fond of raising up a bunch of robots. My child does not need to “fit in” she just needs to be accepted for who she is the way she is. Society is the one who needs to learn to “fit in” and be more accepting not the other way around. JMHO 🙂

    • OMum22 July 7, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

      It’s Carol – I know you from A4cwsn right? Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I completely agree with you on the ‘typical’ point. There’s strength in difference!

  4. Leah Kelley July 6, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    Eloquent and to the point!!
    Thank you for this!!
    Hitting tweet as soon as this little comment is posted!!

    • OMum22 July 7, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

      Thanks for commenting and tweeting Leah – I’m glad you enjoyed it. This really brought some cool bloggers to my page – have new blogs to check out 🙂

  5. Caryn July 6, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    I am reminded of that piece I researched for Gina’s April autism series, about refrigerator mothers. It doesn’t seem to matter WHAT the “cause” is. As long as mothers can be blamed, use it! I think the important thing here, is how hard we as mothers are working with our kids, fighting for our kids. Pretty soon, BREATHING will be a cause of autism. I’ve had to decide to just let it go, and focus on Logan, not a cause, not a cure, not the turmoil. Just.. Logan. Whatever he needs, whenever he needs it. Because really, that’s what metters to me. I can create guilt and blame on my own. I don’t need any help with that.

    • OMum22 July 7, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

      Thanks Caryn for the reminder – it’s our kids that count and that we need to focus on. Oh and that we need support for, right?!

  6. Handflapper July 6, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    This stuff pisses me off to the extent that I want to punch someone. People can make research “results” and statistics mean anything they want. This doesn’t demonstrate a causation; it’s a correlation. We don’t know what causes autism and quite possibly never will. If the best medical science can do it come up with scare tactics and blame games, I’d rather they spend their time looking for more ways to help our children that are already here.

    • OMum22 July 7, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

      Amen to help for our kids! It’s ano honour to have the lovely handflapper comment on my blog btw 😀

  7. Tessa July 6, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    I have four children, and three of them have autism. Before my twins were born, I did not take antidepressants. The boy has autism. The girl doesn’t. Before my second pregnancy, I did not take antidepressants. She has autism. I started taking antidepressants to deal with post-partum depression, and I continued to take them until four weeks into my last pregnancy. He is now being evaluated–but we know he has autism. I heard on the news that based on this report and the twin study done recently, that scientists are rethinking the genetic components of autism. THAT pisses me off.

    • OMum22 July 7, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by Tessa and for your comment. Ugh – the comment you heard on the news is exactly the kind of misinformation that drives me mad! The people that did the twin study were actually careful to say that genetics obviously play a huge role in ASD but that in their study they found that the uterine environment played a bigger role than they expected. Not exactly the same as what was reported!!!

  8. Katrina Moody July 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

    Shared to my wall – in anticipation of my post debut – and tweeted this sucker out again. Cause really, we feel much the same way about this. There is an inherent danger in telling folks that something they did might have caused their child’s disability. And gleefully reporting on it all, the media forgets that at the end of the day, they aren’t the moms who will be looking in the mirror wondering if it was all their fault. <–might be in mine. 🙂

    • OMum22 July 7, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

      Thanks so much for sharing this! Loved your blog post too 🙂

  9. Bridget Allen July 6, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    My almost 8yo was a post cancer surprise. On depo, just declared in remission, trying to safely escape domestic abuse, and here comes a no cervix left extreme high risk pregnancy. Already underweight, I lost 17 more pounds. I had trouble speaking, moving, functioning. Without an SSRI, I doubt I would have made it much less carried anywhere near term. He had to come early, and did have minor respiratory distress, but he is my only neurotypical birth child.

    • OMum22 July 7, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

      Wow Bridget, thanks for sharing. As you said, its anecdote – but its a powerful one. I can’t believe how much you’ve been through – you’re awesome 🙂

  10. Danica July 6, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    I just LOVE how people take one piece of something and run with it. Until they actually find an official cause, they need to keep the speculation to a minimum. I may not have taken SSRI’s but I did take medication that “may have” played a roll, but then again having cancer I don’t know if that had anything to do with it either. There are so many so many things that could have gone wrong, I just consider myself lucky just to have a child who is not only beautiful but also smart. I can learn to live with her quirks and she will thrive into a beautiful person.

    • OMum22 July 7, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

      Thanks hon – and I agree with you. PA is beautiful and smart – just like her mum 🙂

  11. Jenny July 6, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    I wore braces.

    • OMum22 July 7, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

      Love this. Made me laugh so hard 😀

  12. solodialogue July 7, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    I love the honesty and the sarcasm of your post! There will always be a witch hunt for us. I think a lot of it stems from the need of people who don’t live our lives to distance themselves from feeling how difficult it must be to raise a child who is not neurotypical. Sadly, people want excuses to justify ignoring those who are different, disabled or who may cost some public funding.

    It is an ugly thing to blame and doubly so when it is blaming mothers of disabled beautiful and often gifted children. Piss on the internet? I’d more like to give a good s-flinging to all the sensationalists out there – media or individual – looking to spread false information to soothe themselves. Bitter, angry and soapboxy rant complete.

    • OMum22 July 7, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

      You can always count on me for honesty and sarcasm Karen ;). Thanks for joining me on my soapbox. It was nice and cathartic to rant for a bit!

  13. Corina Lynn Becker July 10, 2011 at 1:30 am #

    It feels so good to see mothers not jumping onto the whole blame SSRIs thing. I’m an adult Autistic who takes SSRIs to deal with anxiety, including panic attacks, sensory issues and some social anxiety on top of generalized anxiety, and to deal with some lingering depression. I know how I get when I miss a dose, and I don’t even want to think what would happen if I went off them for a long period of time.

    Besides, even if they do cause Autism, when I have a kid, I want an Autistic. We’d be able to stim together and spend hours wandering museums. By then, I hope that the world is more accepting of Autism and more accessible and inclusive to differences.

    • OMum22 July 10, 2011 at 1:36 am #

      Thanks for stopping by Corina. It’s great to have both you and Bridget share the perspective of adults who are on the spectrum.


  1. Autism Shouldn’t be About Playing the Blame Game « Kat's Cafe - July 7, 2011

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    […] “Wombs of Doom” or “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Poisoning My Children with SSRI…: One mother’s response to the over-the-top reaction people are having about the above study, and her personal choice to continue SSRI usage during pregnancy. An important read for keeping things in perspective. […]

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