Is there a link between pregnancy diabetes and autism?

Studies show that diabetes discovered within the early stages of pregnancy can pose the risk of autism developing (by as much as 40%), however it should be noted:

• The risk is associated with the development of diabetes within the early stages of pregnancy (specifically, prior to week 26). If uncontrolled blood sugar is present during this period, which is an important time for brain development, there seems to be a greater risk for autism (2).

• It is more common for gestational diabetes to develop later in pregnancy (i.e.: after week 26). At this stage, elevated blood sugar levels are less likely to affect the brain compared to early stages of pregnancy.

• Studies show that early pregnancy diabetes results in only 7 additional cases of autism per 1,000 pregnancies (1). This is roughly a 0.7% increase, which is not a significant difference.

Should you be worried?

There’s plenty to be concerned about during a pregnancy and expecting parents should not add to these concerns. Regardless, being aware of the affect that diabetes can have on a developing child during a pregnancy is something to keep in mind. Knowing more about this potential risk can help you avoid it altogether.

Precautions to take so as to prevent pregnancy diabetes include:

• Receiving prenatal care.

• Monitoring the pregnancy at key intervals and committing to routine follow-ups.

• Following a healthy diet and lifestyle before, during and after a pregnancy.

• Knowing if there’s a history of diabetes in your family. If so, discuss the potential risks with your physician.

• Taking precautions if Type 2 diabetes is already present prior to a pregnancy.

• Being aware of any other pre-existing health issues (heart, lung or liver diseases for instance).

Gestational Diabetes can be treated effectively

The good news is that gestational diabetes can be treated quickly and effectively. Diet, lifestyle and medication can help relieve the problem so that both you and your baby are healthy.

If you are pregnant (or plan to be) and are interested to know if gestational diabetes is a concern for you, show this article to your physician and discuss all the risk factors involved and whether they apply to you.


1. Anny H. Xiang, et al. Association of Maternal Diabetes with Autism in Offspring. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), April 14, 2015.

2, 3. (April 14, 2015): Can Early Control of Gestational Diabetes Reduce Autism Risk?

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