In utero antidepressant exposure not associated with ADHD in the offspring: A case control sibling design
Recent studies have reported an association between antidepressant (AD) use during pregnancy and the risk to develop attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the offspring. However, the association might be confounded by risk factors in the pregnant parent. To control for unmeasured factors between pregnancies carried by the same parent, we set up a case-control sibling study using the University of Groningen prescription database IADB.nl. Children receiving medication for ADHD (cases) before the age of 16 years were matched to siblings not receiving such medication (controls). Exposure was defined as at least two prescriptions for any AD during pregnancy, i.e., the period of 39 weeks before the birth date of the offspring. Secondary analyses were performed to assess the effects of the degree of exposure (the amount of Defined Daily Doses) and the type of AD exposed to. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) with corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI). In total, 2,833 children (1,304 cases and 1,529 controls) were included in the analysis. Exposure rate to ADs among cases and controls was 2.2% and 2.4%, respectively. After adjusting for the birth date of the child (as a proxy for the date of pregnancy), age of the pregnant parent at birth, use of psychostimulants, opioids, and antiepileptic drugs by the pregnant parent in the 15 months before birth of the child, an adjusted OR of 1.11 (95% CI 0.67–1.83) was found for the risk of ADHD in the offspring when exposed in utero to ADs. This indicates no increased risk of ADHD in offspring following in utero exposure to ADs. The secondary analyses revealed no statistically significant associations either. The present study provides further evidence that an association between in utero AD exposure and ADHD in offspring might not exist. This perceived association may be caused (at least partially) by confounding by indication. The extent to which depression in the pregnant parent could cause mental disorders such as ADHD in offspring, and the mechanisms involved, should be investigated in further studies.