Are Pregnant Women with Obesity and Diabetes More Likely to Have a Child with ADHD?

Study only finds this association in women with excessive weight gain during pregnancy

Children of women with gestational diabetes and obesity may be twice as likely to develop attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) compared to those whose mothers did not have obesity, according to new research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The estimated number of children aged 3–17 years ever diagnosed with ADHD is 6 million, according to data from 2016 to 2019. A major risk factor for ADHD in children is maternal obesity. Roughly 30% of women have obesity at their first doctor’s visit during pregnancy, and this number increases to 47% in women with gestational diabetes. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy in this population is a risk factor for children developing ADHD.

“Our study found pregnant women with obesity and gestational diabetes had children with long-term mental health disorders such as ADHD,” says Verónica Perea, MD, PhD, of the Hospital Universitari MutuaTerrassa in Barcelona, Spain. “We did not find this association when these women gained a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy.”

The researchers studied 1,036 children born to women with gestational diabetes. Thirteen percent of these children were diagnosed with ADHD. The researchers found children of women with gestational diabetes and obesity were twice as likely to have ADHD compared to those born to mothers without obesity.

The researchers only found this association in women with gestational diabetes, obesity, and excessive weight gain during pregnancy. The researchers did not observe a higher risk of ADHD in children of women with gestational diabetes and obesity if the amount of weight these women gained during pregnancy was within the normal range.

“It’s important for clinicians to counsel their patients on the importance of healthy weight gain during pregnancy,” Perea says.

Other authors of this study include Andreu Simó-Servat, Carmen Quirós, Nuria Alonso-Carril, Maite Valverde, Maria-José Barahona, Xavier Urquizu, Eva López and Maria-José Barahona of the Hospital Universitari Mútua de Terrassa; and Antonio J. Amor of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain.

The study received funding from the Fundació Docència i Recerca Mútua Terrassa.

The manuscript, “Role of Excessive Weight Gain During Gestation in the Risk of ADHD in Offspring of Women with Gestational Diabetes,” was published online, ahead of print.

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