Maternal Obesity, Gestational Diabetes May Increase Risk of Autism

Seizures During Delivery
Seizures During Delivery
Mothers who are both obese and have gestational diabetes have a significantly higher risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder.

Maternal obesity and gestational diabetes has been found to increase the risk of autism in children, according to research published in Autism Research.

In addition to autism, the researchers also examined other developmental disorders. They found that in mothers with gestational diabetes, there was a greater likelihood of their children having a developmental disorder compared with mothers without gestational diabetes, but it did not reach statistical significance (OR 1.28; 95% CI 0,90-1.80).

Currently, autism spectrum disorder affects nearly 1 in 68 children, and its prevalence continues to rise.

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“Our results contribute to the growing evidence of the relationship between maternal metabolic conditions in pregnancy and having a child with autism spectrum disorder,” the authors wrote.

Previous studies, including the large Nurses’ Health Study II, have found a link between autism and a mother’s metabolic disorders and body mass index. A study conducted at the Boston Medical Center between 1998 and 2014 also found a link between autism and mothers who were obese and had diabetes before pregnancy.2

In order to investigate the association between maternal obesity and gestational diabetes and the risk of autism in offspring, Katherine Bowers, PhD, MPH, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and colleagues examined electronic records from  43 407 patients who had visited Cincinnati Children’s Hospital or other hospitals in any of 4 counties in Ohio. They divided the data into those with a confirmed autism diagnosis, those with a developmental disorder other than autism, and controls without autism or other developmental disorders. There were 503 cases of autism and 1533 cases of other developmental disorders.

The researchers found that in mothers with gestational diabetes, the odds ratio of their children being diagnosed with autism was 1.56 (95% CI 1.14-2.11). When the mother had both obesity and gestational diabetes, the risk increased significantly (OR 2.53; 95% CI 1.72-3.73).