Study suggests link between maternal obesity and diabetes and child developmental disorders

Wednesday 11 April 2012

A study from the University of California and Vanderbilt University in the US has explored the risk of a child developing autism and other development disorders in relation to their pregnant mother having metabolic conditions (classified as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity).

The researchers concluded that maternal metabolic conditions may be associated with brain developmental problems in children. Because of the nature of the study design, the study can only show whether metabolic conditions during pregnancy are associated with autism and neurodevelopmental problems; it cannot prove a cause and effect relationship.

No proof that diabetes causes developmental problems

Dr Matthew Hobbs, Head of Research at Diabetes UK, said, “This study considers the association between Type 2 and Gestational diabetes in pregnant mothers and developmental disorders in their children. It is important to note that while it does show an association, it does not show that diabetes causes developmental problems. Further research is needed to answer some questions which were not investigated in this study.

"No significant association between maternal diabetes and risk of autism"

“This study found that children born to mothers with Type 2 or gestational diabetes were about 2.3 times more likely to have developmental delay, compared to mothers without diabetes and who were not obese.  It found that there was no significant association between a mother having diabetes and the chance of her children having autism.  

Good diabetes control might significantly reduce risk

“While this study did not take blood glucose levels into consideration for the mothers with diabetes, research funded by Diabetes UK recently showed that the risk of giving birth to a baby with a birth defect could be significantly reduced if the mother’s diabetes was under good control. We continue to advise that women with diabetes should tell their diabetes healthcare team if they are planning to become pregnant. They can then work together to make sure they are aware of the steps they should take to help them have a healthy pregnancy.”