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The association between gestational diabetes and ASD and ADHD: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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Jennifer Rowland, Claire Wilson

Original languageEnglish
Article number5136
JournalNature Scientific Reports
Issue number1
Accepted/In press28 Jan 2021
Published4 Mar 2021


King's Authors


There is growing evidence for a role of maternal diabetes in the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders. However, the specific association between gestational diabetes (GDM), as opposed to pre-gestational diabetes, has been poorly isolated. Thus the aim was to systematically review and meta-analyse literature pertaining to prevalence and risk for two neurodevelopmental disorders: autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), when exposed to GDM. PubMed, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, PsycINFO and CINAHL were systematically searched for eligible literature, with forward and backward citation tracking. Screening for eligibility, risk of bias assessment and data extraction were performed by two independent reviewers. 18 studies measuring ASD and 15 measuring ADHD met inclusion criteria. On meta-analysis there was an increased risk of ASD (OR 1.42; 95% CI 1.22, 1.65) but not ADHD (OR 1.01; 95% CI 0.79, 1.28). We discuss potential mechanisms for these differing risks. Greater understanding of risk factors, including GDM, for these neurodevelopmental disorders and potential mechanisms may help inform strategies aimed at prevention of exposure to these adversities during pregnancy.

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