Maternal obesity and increased risk for autism and developmental delay among very preterm infants

J Perinatol. 2014 Sep;34(9):688-92. doi: 10.1038/jp.2014.80. Epub 2014 May 8.


Objective: Thirty-five percent of women of child-bearing age are obese, and there is evidence that maternal obesity may increase the risk for adverse neurodevelopmental outcome. However, research regarding obesity and neurodevelopment among children born preterm is limited. This study aimed to determine associations between maternal obesity and neurodevelopment in very preterm children at age 2 years.

Study design: Maternal/infant dyads (n=62) born ⩽30 weeks gestation were enrolled in a prospective cohort study at a level-III neonatal intensive care unit. Mothers were classified as obese or non-obese based on pre-pregnancy body mass index. Infants underwent magnetic resonance imaging at term equivalent and developmental testing at age 2. Maternal obesity was investigated for associations with neurodevelopment.

Result: Maternal obesity was associated with positive screen for autism (odds ratio=9.88, P=0.002) and lower composite language scores (β=-9.36, (confidence interval=-15.11, -3.61), P=0.002).

Conclusion: Maternal obesity was associated with adverse neurodevelopmental outcome at age 2 in this cohort of very preterm children. This study requires replication, but may support targeted surveillance of infants born to women with maternal obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / etiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Brain / pathology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Language Development
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Obesity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Gain