Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs at least 1% of the US children and affects many families throughout the world. But for decades any etiology (cause) of autism has eluded researchers and clinicians. Though it is agreed upon by most physicians that one cause does not explain all cases of children on the Autism spectrum (ASD), there is mounting evidence that a direct correlation exists between some mother’s consumption of SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors or "antidepressants") while pregnant or right before pregnancy and their children with delayed neurodevelopment or impaired nervous systems. The fact that in many countries these drugs are prescribed more than other psychoactive substance makes this connection even more alarming. 
More and more researchers—such as psychopharmacologist David Healy—are concluding from empirical data that these drugs are responsible for many cases of Autism (ASD).  Other professionals, conducting separate studies, have also discovered a direct correlation that can no longer be ignored.
An article published in 2016 in the prestigious JAMA noted that:
Offspring of mothers who purchased at least 2 selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors prescriptions during pregnancy had a significantly increased risk of speech/language disorders compared with offspring of mothers diagnosed as having psychiatric disorders who did not take medication during pregnancy . . . . The findings suggest that use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors during pregnancy increases the risk of speech/language disorders in offspring. 
According to this study, it is not a mother’s depression or genes that are responsible for her offspring’s impaired or damaged nervous system, but the “antidepressants.” Similar studies come to the same conclusion: “There appears to be a link between serotonin reuptake inhibition in pregnancy and developmental delay and spectrum disorders in infancy leading to cognitive difficulties in childhood.”  Or consider this study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders,
Six out of eight reviewed articles confirm an association between antenatal SSRI exposure and an increased risk of ASDs in children. However, the epidemiologic evidence on the link between prenatal SSRI exposure and ASD risk must still be cautiously interpreted, because of potential biases of analyzed research . . . . Available data show that some signal exists suggesting that antenatal [medical care given to expected mothers] exposure to SSRIs may increase the risk of ASDs. Thus, there is an urgent need for further, large, well-designed research finalized to definitively assess the existence and the magnitude of this severe risk, thus confirming or denying that we are truly looking at “the fall of Gods”, since for many years SSRIs have been considered the first-choice agents for treating antenatal depression. 
The empirical data discovered in these studies should not be ignored.
Theory of Drug Action
It has been suggested for decades now that SSRIs “treat” depression, anxiety, and many other psychiatric constructs. But “antidepressants” are not really treating mental problems or healing the body as is regularly asserted. It is important to understand a drug's true action rather than its often advertised one, since its true mechanisms may have wider effects that must be considered (such as ASD). In valid physical illnesses, viruses, or other biological problems (e.g., infections), medicine (e.g., antibiotics) is offered as an attempt to attack the physical malady and to heal the body—a theory known for valid physical diseases as the disease-centered theory of drug action. Many biological psychiatrists and psychopharmacologists have suggested that the same theory of drug action must be applied in attempt to treat “mental illnesses.” But true mental problems do not have biological markers let alone biological etiologies.  Still, the disease-centered theory of drug action is claimed to guide the suggested psychiatric remedies of the mind.
In truth, these powerful psychotropic (mind-changing) drugs' action is to perturb or attack healthy neurological functions rather than being agents that heal bodies or cure minds. People who are depressed “feel” better because their “feelings” are suppressed through the drug’s inhibiting or impairing their nervous system. In fact, as the name SSRI explains, these drug's most prominent effect is to inhibit serotonin re-uptake. This reality is why psychiatrists, such as Dr. Joanna Moncrieff, have concluded that labeling SSRIs as “antidepressants” is a misnomer; these drugs are not healing agents.  The true impairing drug action of SSRIs is also why men are prescribed SSRIs to “treat““premature ejaculation;”  SSRIs work to prolong sexual episodes by inhibiting normal neurological function and suppressing sensory sensitivity/stimulation. These drugs could just as easily be reframed as "anti-premature-ejaculants" if the same logic were applied. Furthermore, most men and women who consume SSRIs in attempt to deal with their sadness and hopelessness regularly incur sexual dysfunction. Consumer's senses are blunted and impaired by the drug's true action, and if the drugs are taken long enough, their senses can become permanently damaged. 
In the case of "antidepressants," depression is not actually being remedied or attacked through their chemical properties. Those who are incredibly sad and hopeless find no healing benefit from the chemical structure of these powerful drugs. What does seem to help—albeit short-term --- is both the dulling of one's senses -- thus their ability to feel - and the benefit of the placebo effect.  Other drugs, though, like alcohol, offer the same "therapeutic benefits." Yet, it is never argued that an alcohol deficiency exists to explain alcohol's drug action, and physicians no longer prescribe alcohol as most people do not view it as being a healing agent (The Bible does offer medicinal use for alcohol but it presents the psychoactive drug as perturbing the nervous system rather than healing the body). As prescribed psychoactive drugs like SSRIs -- which are framed as healing medicines suppress or impair the nervous system and create euphoric experiences, the consumer begins to believe that the psychoactive substance is healing or helping them - that it is balancing out their chemicals. In turn, this provides hope—albeit false and usually short-lived.  Any “therapeutic benefit” from SSRI consumption, though, is due to either the drug’s attack on the nervous system (not on the alleged disease) or the placebo effect. SSRIs are simply not drugs with healing mechanisms, and the disease-centered theory of drug action is not a valid theory for explaining SSRIs mechanisms.
While some people may consider blunting their thinking and impairing their senses as desirable, sensory sensitivity/impairment in the nervous system and hindered communication are the foundational problems in autism. It should be accepted as common sense that drugs which attack and impair the nervous system in the consumer can also attack the nervous system and genetic structures of both a pre-fertilized egg and a small delicate fetus.  The primary action of SSRIs is to perturb or shutdown the nervous system; this action is not simply an adverse affect. Psychiatrist Peter Breggin explains,
Some drugs are used to treat depression on the theory that they enhance serotonergic neurotransmission; but in reality they cause extreme imbalances in the system, including a relative compensatory shutdown of serotonergic neurotransmission. . . . Since the brain typically tries to compensate for any artificially induced biochemical imbalance, drugs are too likely to achieve the opposite of what we intend. 
These adverse/negative effects are not side-effects; they are the drugs' true effect. What Breggin later concludes is that SSRIs are not healing chemical imbalances at all (it is widely recognized that the theory of chemical imbalances has been dismissed as false; alleged chemical imbalances are not causative for any mental problems).  Instead of being healing agents, Breggin concludes that these powerful drugs actually create chemical and neurological imbalances.
As with all correlations, these links do not dogmatically prove causality. Compared to other correlative studies in medicine, there has been minimal research conducted to emphatically recognize SSRIs as causative for many cases of Autism. But the available data from research is pointing strongly to such a conclusion. In part, there has been an avoidance to research such a correlation, and the lack of studies and discovery is most likely due to the fact that the majority of psychopharmacological studies are largely funded—directly and indirectly—by Big Pharma. Yet, knowledgeable psychopharmacologists/psychiatrists have known for sometime just how damaging SSRIs can be. For example, these drugs regularly receive the strongest FDA warning: the “Black Box Warning”.  Similarly, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM) recognizes the common adverse effects when people stop taking SSRIs. The American Psychiatric Association refers to this response as "Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome," and they describe the effects in the DSM as: "specific sensory, somatic, and cognitive-emotional manifestations." This same description applies to the Autism Spectrum Disorder as well. Furthermore, it is widely recognized that alcohol (another psychoactive substance) causes "fetal alcohol syndrome" of which autism is a key component.Clearly, studied clinicians already know that SSRIs have a profound impact on the consumer's nervous system.
In addition to SSRIs, other psychiatric drugs - which also attack or perturb the nervous system - should be studied further. Likewise, more research needs to be conducted on possible connections between breastfeeding and "antidepressants" as well as how antidepressants affect sperm and eggs prior to conception. Despite the small number of studies conducted so far (at least ones that have been made public), the research available consistently yields empirical evidence that points to serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) as inhibiting, altering, and damaging more than merely a mother’s neurological system.
For further reading about psychoactive drugs, theories of drug action, and the history of psychopharmacology, please see Daniel R. Berger II, Mental Illness: The Necessity for Dependence (Taylors, SC: Alethia International Ministries, 2016).
This article is not intended in any way to be taken as medical advice. If you have medical questions, please see a licensed physician.
Notes and Citations:
 Some of the more common SSRIs are Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paroxetine, Paxil, Pexeva, Sertraline, Zoloft, and Viibryd (Mayo Clinic Staff, "Depression: Major Depressive Disorder," http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/ssris/art-20044825).
 Preskorn SH, Ross R, Stanga CY (2004). “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors”. In Sheldon H. Preskorn, Hohn P. Feighner, Christina Y. Stanga, Ruth Ross. Antidepressants: Past, Present and Future (Berlin: Springer), 241–62.
 David Healy, “Autistic Spectrum Disorder and SSRIs,” RXisk Online (October 25, 2016) https://rxisk.org/autistic-spectrum-disorder-and-ssris/.
 Jane Mundy, “Paxil, Birth Defects and Autism,” Lawyers and settlements online (May 11, 2007): https://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/article /paxil_birth_defects/paxil-autism-00868.html.
 Brown AS, Gyllenberg D, Malm H, McKeague IW, Hinkka-Yli-Salomäki S, Artama M, Gissler M, Cheslack-Postava K, Weissman MM, Gingrich JA, Sourander A., “Association of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Exposure During Pregnancy With Speech, Scholastic, and Motor Disorders in Offspring,” JAMA Psychiatry 73 (11) (November 1, 2016): 1163-1170. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2594.
 David Healy, J. Le Nourya and D. Manginb, “Links between serotonin reuptake inhibition during pregnancy and neurodevelopmental delay/spectrum disorders: A systematic review of epidemiological and physiological evidence,” International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine 28 (July 12, 2016): 125–141. DOI 10.3233/JRS-160726.
 Salvatore Gentile, “Prenatal antidepressant exposure and the risk of autism spectrum disorders in children. Are we looking at the fall of Gods?” Journal of Affective Disorders Vol. 182 (August 15, 2015): 132–137.
 Neurodegenerative diseases and other biological diseases (such as autism, dementia, or Alzheimer's disease) should not be classified as mental illness; they are biological diseases (Daniel R. Berger II, Mental Illness: The Reality of the Physical Nature (Taylors, SC: Alethia International Ministries, 2016), 141-51).
 Joanna Moncrieff, “Why There is no Such Thing as an ‘Antidepressant,’” (November 27, 2013): https://joannamoncrieff.com/2013/11/27/why-theres-no-such-thing-as-an-antidepressant/.
 M.D. Waldinger, “Premature ejaculation: state of the art,” The Urologic Clinics of North America. 34 (4) (November 2007): 591–9.
 Audrey Bahrick, “Persistence of Sexual Dysfunction Side Effects after Discontinuation of Antidepressant Medications: Emerging Evidence” The Open Psychology Journal 1 (2008): 42–50. doi:10.2174/1874350100801010042.
 Irving Kirsch, The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth (New York: Basic Books, 2010).
 The study of epigenetics has revealed that genes are in many ways not fixed but can be altered and manipulated (Berger, Mental Illness: The Reality of the Physical Nature, 110-14).
 Peter R. Breggin, Toxic Psychiatry (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991), 142-43.
 “We cannot at present scientifically confirm the suggested relationship between sluggish serotonergic neurotransmission and some destructive or self-destructive behaviors. Meanwhile, there is even less evidence that people routinely diagnosed as depressed by psychiatrists have biochemical imbalances. Scientific reviews of the biochemistry of depression have failed to identify a consistent biochemical basis” (Breggin, 142-43). Editor in chief of the psychiatric times is among many who are now admitting that chemical imbalance theory is not valid: “I am not one who easily loses his temper, but I confess to experiencing markedly increased limbic activity whenever I hear someone proclaim, “Psychiatrists think all mental disorders are due to a chemical imbalance!” In the past 30 years, I don’t believe I have ever heard a knowledgeable, well-trained psychiatrist make such a preposterous claim, except perhaps to mock it. On the other hand, the “chemical imbalance” trope has been tossed around a great deal by opponents of psychiatry, who mendaciously attribute the phrase to psychiatrists themselves. And yes—the “chemical imbalance” image has been vigorously promoted by some pharmaceutical companies, often to the detriment of our patients’ understanding. In truth, the “chemical imbalance” notion was always a kind of urban legend—never a theory seriously propounded by well-informed psychiatrists” (Ronald Pies, “Psychiatry’s New Brain-Mind and the Legend of the ‘Chemical Imbalance,’” Psychiatric Times, July 11, 2011, http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/blogs/psychiatry-new-brain-mind-and-legend-chemical-imbalance).
 Breggin, 142-43.
 “It appears on a prescription drug’s label and is designed to call attention to serious or life-threatening risks.” http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates /UCM107976.pdf.
 American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5 (Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013), 712.
 Ibid., 53.