Increased risk of autism spectrum disorders, developmental disorders in children of women with severe obesity

According to a study published in Obesity, severe maternal obesity during pregnancy was found to increase the risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other developmental disorders in the offspring.

Data from the Study to Explore Early Development (SEED), a case-control study conducted between 2003 and 2011 at 6 locations in the United States, was analyzed. This study found that cases of ASD and developmental disorders in children are related to maternal reported body mass index (BMI) and pregnancy weight gain (GWG).

Children with ASD (n = 1159) or a developmental disorder (n = 1617) were more likely to be boys (P <.0001) born prematurely (P = .0002) and Hispanic mothers (P <.0001) born during Smoked during pregnancy (P <.0001), had a lower level of education (P <.0001) and lived in households with lower incomes (P <.0001) compared to the general population (n = 1633).

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The average BMI before pregnancy was given as 25.2 (standard deviation [SD], 5.8) kg / m2 in mothers in the general population, 26.9 (SD, 7.4) kg / m2 in mothers of children with ASD (P <0.001) and 26.4 (SD, 6.5) kg / m2 in mothers of children with a developmental disorder (P <.001).

It was found that the pre-pregnancy BMI of the mother with ASA is associated with intellectual disability (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.71; 95% CI 1.22-2.40, ASD without intellectual disabilities (aOR 2.30; 95% CI 1.57-3.38) and developmental disorders (aOR 1.61; 95% CI 1 , 22-2.13).

The highest tertile for pregnancy weight gain was found to be associated with ASD (aOR 1.22; 95% CI 1.00-1.49).

Obesity classes 2 or 3 were with ASD (aOR 1.87; 95% CI 1.40-2.51), ASD with intellectual disabilities (aOR, 1.71; 95% CI, 1.22-2.40) and ASD without intellectual disabilities (aOR, 2.30; 95% CI 1.57–3.38) and developmental disorders (aOR 1.61; 95% CI 1.22–2.13).

This study may have been limited by recall bias as mothers were asked about their pre-pregnancy BMI and mother’s weight gain 2 to 5 years after giving birth.

These data showed that children born to mothers who were severely obese may have an increased risk of ASD and developmental disorders. “Because the maternal BMI and [gestational weight gain] are modifiable factors and are widely available in the clinical setting, these results could support prevention efforts or early intervention for high-risk maternal-child dyads, ”the authors concluded.


Matias SL, Pearl M, Lyall K, et al. Maternal weight before pregnancy and weight gain during pregnancy associated with autism and developmental disorders in the offspring. Obesity. Published online August 4, 2021. doi: 10.1002 / oby.23228

This article originally appeared on Endocrinology Advisor

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