Babies born to diabetic parents are at increased risk of autism and behavioral problems, according to a new study.
Infants are also prone to other neurological conditions, such as developmental delay, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy, according to research from Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University Hospital.
The findings are based on hundreds of thousands of children whose mothers had type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
Maternal diabetes is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect the placenta, a disc of tissue that supplies nutrients and oxygen to the fetus.
“These conditions can lead to neurodevelopmental disorders,” explains lead author Professor Pao Lin Kuo.
It also alters the genes in the newborn’s cord blood, which contains stem cells, an important component of the body.
Professor Kuo said:
His team followed 877,233 children born in Taiwan between 2004 and 2008 for up to 12 years.
The rate of gestational diabetes that develops during pregnancy is increasing rapidly. Women with a BMI of 30 or higher are particularly vulnerable.
It was associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and developmental delay.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by eating too much junk food and not exercising enough. It was also associated with intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy.
Genetic or environmental factors are believed to be behind type 1 diabetes. It has raised cases of developmental delay, intellectual disability, and epilepsy.
Professor Kuo said:
“Although various neurodevelopmental disorders may share the same underlying causes, including genetic and environmental factors, distinct mechanisms may contribute to unique brain conditions. .”
Previous studies have found that a diabetic pregnancy increases the risk of a child developing heart disease.
Baby development is complex and changes in the mother’s body can affect the baby.
This relationship also goes in the opposite direction. Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can alter a woman’s insulin sensitivity and lead to the development of gestational diabetes.
All forms of diabetes usually involve an inflammatory immune system response.
Inflammation has also been observed in the brains of children with autism, suggesting that this is one of the links between the two conditions.
Professor Kuo added:
The study is published in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology.