Severe maternal obesity during pregnancy was found to increase the risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disorders among offspring, according to results of a study published in Obesity.

Data from the Study to Explore Early Development (SEED), a case-control study conducted at 6 sites in the United States between 2003 and 2011, were analyzed. In that study, instances of ASD and developmental disorders among children were found to be associated with maternal-reported prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) and gestational weight gain (GWG).

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


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Mean prepregnancy BMI was reported as 25.2 (standard deviation [SD], 5.8) kg/m2 among mothers in the general population, 26.9 (SD, 7.4) kg/m2 among mothers of children with ASD (P <.001), and 26.4 (SD, 6.5) kg/m2 among mothers of children with a developmental disorder (P <.001).

Prepregnancy maternal BMI was found to be associated with ASD with intellectual disability (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.71; 95% CI, 1.22-2.40), ASD without intellectual disability (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 associated with ASD (aOR, 1.87; 95% CI, 1.40-2.51), ASD with intellectual disability (aOR, 1.71; 95% CI, 1.22-2.40), ASD without intellectual disability (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 the mothers were interviewed 2 to 5 years postpartum about their prepregnancy BMI and maternal weight gain.

These data indicated that children born of mothers who were severely obese may be at increased risk for ASD and developmental disorders. “Because maternal BMI and [gestational weight gain] are modifiable factors and generally available in clinical settings, these findings could assist prevention efforts or early intervention for mother-child dyads at high risk,” the authors concluded.

Reference

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