Gestational Diabetes Linked to Greater Autism Risk in Children
Mothers who have gestational diabetes (GD) by the 26th week of pregnancy are more likely to have children that develop autism later in life, a new study from Kaiser reports.
Over 322,000 children were involved in the study who were born between January 1995 and December 2009. Offspring who were exposed to gestational diabetes were 63 percent more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder than children who were not exposed to GD.
While the study doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship between GD and autism, it does raise questions about how brain health is affected when babies in utero are exposed to GD, said Dr. Anny H. Xiang, lead study author.
"The exposure of fetuses to maternal hyperglycemia may have long-lasting effects on organ development and function, but whether this can disrupt fetal brain development and heighten risk for neurobehavioral developmental disorders in offspring is less clear," Xiang said.
Early diagnosis might reduce risk
The study found that mothers who developed GD after 26 weeks of pregnancy did not have children more likely to develop autism, suggesting that gestational diabetes in the first six months or so of pregnancy could pose the greatest risk for children.
"If the findings of this study reflect a cause-and-effect relationship, then they add another factor to a growing list of risks associated with gestational diabetes," said study co-author Edward S. Curry, MD.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gestational diabetes rates may be as high as 9.2 percent. Research suggests GD can sometimes lead to further health complications for both mother and child, like obesity and type 2 diabetes.
"Our study findings also suggest that early screening for autism in children of women with gestational diabetes diagnosed by 26 weeks gestation may be warranted," Dr. Curry said.
Source: Kaiser Permanente