Maternal Autoimmune Disease Increases The Risk Of Mental Disorders In Children

June 16, 2023; Unhurry Expert Research Team

Infants born to mothers with autoimmune diseases had a 16% higher risk of being diagnosed with a mental disorder compared to children who were not prenatally exposed to maternal autoimmune disorders.

Moreover, maternal immune activation during pregnancy is associated with higher risks of several mental disorders that present in offspring during childhood, revealed research published in the JAMA Network Open.

This relationship between maternal autoimmune disease and the mental health of offspring during and after childhood was explored by conducting a population-based nationwide cohort study. The team was led by Hua He, MD, PhD, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatric Department and Child Primary Care Department, Xinhua Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine.

Prenatal exposure to maternal autoimmune diseases at higher risk

Prenatal exposure to maternal autoimmune diseases was linked to increased risks of mental disorders in offspring.

The researchers the following categories of mental disorders in offspring, as part of reviewing the study. Categories included any mental disorder, organic disorders, substance use disorders, schizophrenia, mood disorders, neurotic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, personality disorders, intellectual disability, developmental disorders, childhood autism, behavioural disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or conduct disorder (CD).

Danish national registers provided the study’s data, and analyses were carried out between March 2020 and September 2021. Researchers used the Danish Medical Birth Registry to identify 2,272,472 live-born singletons born in Denmark between 1978 and 2015.

2,254,234 births with 38,916,359 person-years were the final cohort total after 18,239 newborns were excluded owing to death or emigration. If a mother was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease prior to giving birth, the infant was deemed to have been prenatally exposed to it.

Maternal diabetes and arthritis linked to the mental health of offspring

The findings demonstrated a relationship between prenatal exposure to autoimmune diseases in mothers and an elevated risk of mental problems in offspring. The findings showed a relationship between type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis in the mother during pregnancy and mental health in the offspring up to early adulthood.

In this cohort study, the follow-up period could have lasted 38 years. When compared to offspring who were not exposed to maternal autoimmune illnesses, those offspring had a 16% increased probability of being diagnosed with a mental condition.

When researchers categorised autoimmune diseases by organ system, they found that children had a higher risk of mental disorders for most system types, with primary biliary cirrhosis showing the highest risk.

“The 5 most common maternal autoimmune diseases associated with the overall risk of mental disorders in offspring were type 1 diabetes (HR, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.18-1.30), rheumatoid arthritis (HR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.14-1.38), systemic lupus erythematosus (HR, 1.34; 95% CI, 1.13-1.60), multiple sclerosis (HR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.08-1.36), and psoriasis vulgaris (HR, 1.24; 95% CI,1.14-1.36),” investigators wrote.

The study “Association of Maternal Autoimmune Diseases With Risk of Mental Disorders in Offspring in Denmark” was published in JAMA Network Open.

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