October 14 (News) – Children of mothers with diabetes during pregnancy are at higher risk for mental disorders as they grow up, a study published Thursday by JAMA Network Open found.
The data showed that mothers with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, were 15% more likely to be diagnosed with a psychiatric illness later in life than mothers who had did not have diabetes at the time of delivery.
This includes a 55% higher risk of schizophrenia, a disorder that causes hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and disorganized thinking.
Diabetes during pregnancy also increases the offspring’s risk for anxiety disorders by just over 20% and for mental and developmental disorders by up to almost 30%.
In addition, children of mothers diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy have a 17% higher risk of behavioral disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, the researchers said.
“Women who are planning to become pregnant or have diabetes and are pregnant should be aware of the importance of a healthy glycemic value to their own health and the mental health of their children,” said study co-author Raquel Nogueira Avelar e Silva, in an email to News.
“Overall, our results show the importance of effective public health strategies for the prevention, early detection and treatment of diabetes in women of fertile age,” said Avelar e Silva, postdoctoral fellow at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.
While it is still not known why children of mothers who develop diabetes while pregnant are at higher risk for these mental health problems, “diabetic women should be closely monitored and treated during pregnancy,” she said.
In the United States, up to 2% of pregnant women have type 1 or type 2 diabetes before they become pregnant, and up to 9% develop gestational diabetes or high blood sugar levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, those numbers have increased by 40 to 50% since 2000, based on estimates by agencies and other research institutes.
Diabetes during pregnancy can adversely affect the health of women and their babies, says the CDC.
For example, in women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar levels at the time of conception increase the newborn’s risk of birth defects, stillbirths, and premature births, according to the CDC.
In addition, high blood sugar during pregnancy in any type of diabetes increases a woman’s risk of having a c-section and the risk of the newborn developing obesity or type 2 diabetes with age, the agency says.
For this study, Avelar e Silva and her colleagues analyzed data from 2.4 million babies born in Denmark between 1978 and 2016 and followed them up to the age of 39.
Of the babies included in the study, just over 56,000 were born to mothers with diabetes, including about 23,000 with type 1 diabetes, 7,000 with type 2 diabetes, and 26,000 with gestational diabetes.
During the follow-up period, 151,000 or just over 6% of babies born to mothers with some form of diabetes were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, the data showed.
“My team and I believe that women can best minimize their risk and that of their children by adopting behaviors to prevent diabetes,” said Avelar e Silva.
“For women who already have diabetes, the best way to minimize risk is to closely monitor and manage their glycemic levels,” she said.