Children whose mothers were diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which is diabetes that develops during pregnancy, are twice as likely to meet the criteria for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by age six as children born to mothers without gestational diabetes, a new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine has found.
Living in a family with below-average socioeconomic status likewise doubled the risk of ADHD in six-year-olds. But children with both risk factors — those who were exposed to gestational diabetes and grew up in a less-than-affluent household — had a 14-fold increased risk of ADHD compared to children with neither risk factor.
The findings don’t prove that gestational diabetes directly causes ADHD, but the researchers say they send a message to mothers and doctors that gestational diabetes may pose hidden dangers to a child well after birth, especially if the child grows up in a challenging environment.
“Mothers should be aware that gestational diabetes can affect her fetus,” says Yoko Nomura, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City.
Gestational diabetes, which affects roughly 5% of expectant mothers in the United States, generally develops during the second or third trimester of pregnancy — the same window of time in which a fetus undergoes a critical burst of brain development.
Image: Pregnant belly, via Shutterstock.