Maternal Diabetes May Increase Risk of Autism, ADHD and Cerebral Palsy in Children: Study

Different types of maternal diabetes carried different risks for autism and other types of developmental delays, researchers warn

Infants born to mothers who had diabetes during pregnancy face an increased risk of experiencing a wide range of developmental disorders, including ADHD, autism, and cerebral palsy, according to the findings of a new study.

Exposure to type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes carried different risks for infants born to mothers who suffered from these conditions during pregnancy, according to findings published last week in the medical journal Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology.

Researchers from Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University Hospital conducted a retrospective cohort study of 877,000 infants born 2004 to 2008 in Taiwan. They analyzed health insurance claims data during that time period, focusing on maternal diabetes during pregnancy and a wide spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), developmental delays, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy/infantile spasms.

Overall, 388 children, about 0.04%, were exposed to type 1 diabetes in-utero. More than 8,700 infants were exposed to type 2 diabetes, or roughly 1% of infants, and more than 90,000 infants were exposed to gestational diabetes, or 10% of children in the study.

Infants exposed to type 1 diabetes mellitus had an increased risk of suffering from neurodevelopmental disorders. Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes also increased the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, but less so than type 1 diabetes.

Exposure to type 1 diabetes was linked with increased risk of developmental delay, intellectual disability, and epilepsy/intellectual spasms among children born to women who suffered the condition during pregnancy.

Type 2 diabetes increased the risk of autism, ADHD, developmental delay, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy/intellectual spasms among children born to women who had the condition during pregnancy.

Having gestational diabetes during pregnancy was linked with increased risk of autism, ADHD, and developmental delay.

“Mechanistic studies are needed to explore how maternal conditions, such as diabetes, may shape brain development in the womb,” said author Pao-Lin Kuo, MD, of National Cheng Kung University Hospital.

Diabetes Risks During Pregnancy

Maternal diabetes, of any kind, leads to an increased state of chronic inflammation. Inflammation can have widespread side effects on the body, including effects to the uterus, placenta, and the fetus, such as supply of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus, researchers determined.

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Researchers also indicate inflammation can lead to gene changes in the cord blood of infants in utero, which can lead to widespread and long-term effects.

Rates of gestational diabetes have continued to increase in recent decades, highly affecting women who have a higher body mass index or are overweight. Type 2 diabetes is linked to worsening diets focusing on increased intake of sugars.

Different neurodevelopmental disorders may share similar origins, but have different effects to the body and to the infant when exposed during pregnancy.


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