Does Wellbutrin use during pregnancy cause Autism?(5 tips)

In this article, we will assess whether Wellbutrin causes autism when taken during pregnancy. Additionally, we will examine the link between Wellbutrin and autism based on research findings and explore potential mediators of this association. We will also discuss how to manage the use of Wellbutrin during pregnancy.

Does Wellbutrin use during pregnancy cause autism?

No, Wellbutrin is not associated with the development of autism in children when the drug is taken during pregnancy by the expectant mother to treat depression.

However, Wellbutrin should only be prescribed during pregnancy after careful consideration of the benefits and risks for the pregnant woman and the developing fetus since this medication has been associated with an increased risk of congenital defects of heart in babies.

What do research studies suggest regarding Wellbutrin and pregnancy?

Wellbutrin inhibits the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine, so its lack of serotonergic activity may be a beneficial attribute due to the reason that changes in the serotonin system of the fetal brain have been associated with negative developmental effects in unborn children (1). 

A clinical study based on the effect of bupropion during pregnancy revealed that the use of this medication did not increase the risk of congenital defects related to the brain (2).

However, the use of bupropion (Wellbutrin) during the first trimester in pregnant women was associated with cardiovascular defects in the fetus (3).

Which potential risk factors are associated with autism and antidepressants?

  • Genetic susceptibility: It has been speculated that several genes interact to influence the development of autism, suggesting a strong hereditary component. While antidepressants may interact with genetic factors in people who are at risk, they are unlikely to be the only cause of autism (4).


  • Psychiatric conditions: A high risk of autism in kids has been linked to underlying mental health disorders including depression or anxiety in pregnant women who require antidepressant medications (5). According to a clinical case study analyzing a large and varied sample, women who had psychological disorders, mainly depression while pregnant were more likely to have a child with autism (6).


  • Demographic factors: Demographic variables such as women’s age, socioeconomic status, and lifestyle choices may also play a role in the complicated correlation between antidepressant use and autism risk. (1,5).


  • Individual Variability: Since each person is different, there can be variations in how they react to antidepressants. The possible impact on autism risk may be influenced by variables such as dose, frequency, and duration of exposure, and the specific medication used (1).


  • Prenatal and Perinatal factors: Maternal gestational bleeding, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and exposure to pregnancy complications such as preterm labour, miscarriage, and stillbirth may raise the likelihood of autism, but there is not enough evidence to link only one perinatal factor to the aetiology of autism (7).


  • Antiepileptic drugs: Exposure to antiepileptic medications during pregnancy has been linked to a higher chance of congenital abnormalities and a delayed onset of cognitive development in the fetus. A population-based study showed that valproate use by the mother during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of autism in children (8).

What are the recommendations for using Wellbutrin during pregnancy?

It is necessary to treat depression in pregnant women. Since pregnancy alters the body’s hormonal, metabolic, and psychological status, it is necessary to adjust the dose of Wellbutrin if you are taking it.

So, a doctor should be consulted for dosage adjustments. Furthermore, if the mother is breastfeeding, she should follow the doctor’s advice as Wellbutrin may affect it.

To eliminate the risk of drug interactions, doctors should be made aware of any supplements or drugs taken by the expectant mother. Any side effects experienced by the mother should be immediately addressed to avoid any harm to the baby (9). 

The drug should be taken as prescribed and should not be discontinued without consulting the healthcare provider.

They may look into other treatment options After carefully evaluating the patient’s medical history, the severity of the mood disorder, and any associated dangers, they may look into other treatment options(10). These include:


Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or interpersonal counselling can be effective in addition to medications in the management of mental disorders during pregnancy.

Non-pharmacological interventions

Non-pharmacological interventions such as exercise, meditation, lifestyle changes, and social support can greatly improve the mental health of mothers.

Alternative antidepressants

Pregnant women may be prescribed alternative antidepressants by medical professionals. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are two of the closest pharmacological alternatives to bupropion (Wellbutrin) and are considered safe during pregnancy.


Treatment of depression in pregnant women is important and should be addressed soon to avoid any harm to the mother and the unborn child. Antidepressants are often prescribed to treat depressive symptoms, however, these drugs may lead to developmental problems in the fetus.

Wellbutrin is among the antidepressants often prescribed to pregnant women and studies have shown that the risk of autism from Wellbutrin is none. Despite that care should be taken and a doctor or a pharmacist should be consulted in case of any complication.

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Pedersen LH. Prenatal antidepressant exposure and childhood autism spectrum disorders: cause for concern?. Pediatric Drugs. 2015 Dec;17(6):443-8.


Chun-Fai-Chan B, Koren G, Fayez I, Kalra S, Voyer-Lavigne S, Boshier A, Shakir S, Einarson A. Pregnancy outcome of women exposed to bupropion during pregnancy: a prospective comparative study. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology. 2005 Mar 1;192(3):932-6.


Louik C, Kerr S, Mitchell AA. First‐trimester exposure to bupropion and risk of cardiac malformations. Pharmacoepidemiology and drug safety. 2014 Oct;23(10):1066-75.


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Ames JL, Ladd-Acosta C, Fallin MD, Qian Y, Schieve LA, DiGuiseppi C, Lee LC, Kasten EP, Zhou G, Pinto-Martin J, Howerton EM. Maternal psychiatric conditions, treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Biological psychiatry. 2021 Aug 15;90(4):253-62.


Gardener H, Spiegelman D, Buka SL. Prenatal risk factors for autism: comprehensive meta-analysis. The British journal of psychiatry. 2009 Jul;195(1):7-14.


Christensen J, Grønborg TK, Sørensen MJ, Schendel D, Parner ET, Pedersen LH, Vestergaard M. Prenatal valproate exposure and risk of autism spectrum disorders and childhood autism. Jama. 2013 Apr 24;309(16):1696-703.


Das DJ. Wellbutrin (Bupropion) During Pregnancy: Is It Safe? [Internet]. MomJunction. 2022 [cited 2023 Oct 25]. Available from:



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