Study shows mothers who are obese or diabetic more likely to have children with autism or developmental delays


AAPlogoMothers who are obese or who suffer from diabetes during pregnancy are more likely to have a child with autism or developmental delays, according to a study released today by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In the May 2012 Pediatrics study, “Maternal Metabolic Conditions and Risk for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders,” researchers examined 1,004 children aged 2 to 5 years enrolled in the CHARGE (Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment) study from 2003 to 2010. In that group, 517 children had autism, 172 children had other developmental disorders, and 315 were developing typically. Study authors reported for the first time, a strong association between metabolic conditions during pregnancy (diabetes, obesity and hypertension), and autism spectrum disorder or developmental delays.

Obese mothers had 1.6 times the chance of having a child with autism, and were more than twice as likely to have a child with another developmental disorder, according to the study. Mothers with diabetes were 2.3 times more likely to have a child with developmental delays, the study stated. Children of mothers with diabetes also performed lower on language and communication tests compared to children of mothers without metabolic conditions.

“The prevalence of obesity and diabetes among U.S. women of childbearing age is 34 percent and 8.7 percent respectively,” the study concluded. “Our findings raise concerns that these maternal conditions may be associated with neurodevelopmental problems in children and therefore could have serious public health implications.”