A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Summer, 2018 | Number 3, Volume 32

Fathers’ antidepressant use during conception is not associated with ASD

Children of fathers who take antidepressant medications around the time of conception do not appear to have an increased risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD), a new study indicates. 

Alexander Viktorin and colleagues note that while researchers have extensively studied women’s use of antidepressants during this time, few studies have looked into the possible effects of paternal use. Because some research suggests that antidepressant use may reduce sperm concentration and motility, cause morphological changes in sperm, and increase DNA fragmentation damage, the researchers wondered whether paternal use of these drugs around the time of conception might increase children’s risk for preterm birth, malformations, autism, or intellectual disability. 

Using the Swedish Medical Birth Register and the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register, the researchers analyzed the records of more than 170,000 children born in 2006 or 2007 and followed up to 2014. The group included nearly 4,000 children born to fathers receiving antidepressant prescriptions during the conception period (four weeks before to four weeks after conception). The researchers compared the children of these men to children of men who did not take antidepressants and to children of men who began taking antidepressants after the conception period. 

The researchers found no association between paternal antidepressant use during the conception period and preterm birth, malformations, or intellectual disability. (They actually found a reduced risk for intellectual disability in this group when they compared them to fathers who began taking antidepressants after the conception period.) They did find an association with autism, but this association disappeared when they adjusted for other factors. 

The researchers conclude, “Paternal intake of antidepressants during the period around conception is safe with respect to the risk of the four major adverse outcomes in offspring—preterm birth, malformation, autism, or intellectual disability.”


“Paternal use of antidepressants and offspring outcomes in Sweden: nationwide prospective cohort study,” Alexander Viktorin, Stephen Z. Levine, Margret Altemus, Abraham Reichenberg, and Sven Sandin, British Journal of Medicine, June 8, 2018 (open access). Address: Sven Sandin, Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, [email protected].