Taking certain asthma medication during pregnancy could increase the risk of the child being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. That’s according to a new study by researchers from Drexel University, which was published in Pediatrics.

Researchers found that children whose mothers took ß-2-andrenergic receptor (B2AR) agonists during pregnancy, were 30% more likely to be eventually diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. B2AR agonist drugs include salmetereol and formoterol, which can relax the bronchial passages in an asthma patient’s lungs.

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The study analyzed birth records from Denmark between the years 1996 and 2007. In total, 5,200 children were identified as diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, while 52,000 children were identified in the control group. Three-point-seven percent of autism spectrum disorder diagnosed children were born to mothers who took (B2AR) agonists during pregnancy, compared to a diagnosis rate of 2.9% for children born to mothers who did not take B2AR agonists during pregnancy.

Mother’s were included as part of the B2AR exposed group if they filled their prescriptions from 90 days before the estimated date of conception, all the way until the date of birth. Untreated asthma has also been associated with poor birth outcomes; the authors are quick to point out that stopping B2AR use altogether may not be the best solution to offset the risk of autism.

“Newly pregnant women taking medication for asthma or other conditions need to work closely with their health care provider to weigh the benefits of continuing medication use against possible risks,” said Craig Newschaffer, PhD, one of the study’s authors. The authors call for more research before any clinical considerations in the course of prenatal care can be advised.

For more information visit Drexel University.