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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Maternal Obesity Linked to ADHD, Behavioral Problems in Children

Four pregnant mothers speak to each other

Researchers found that mothers who were overweight or obese before pregnancy were more likely to report that their children had been diagnosed with ADHD.

Photo: RAWPIXEL/GETTY

Maternal obesity may increase a child’s risk for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to an analysis by researchers from NICHD. The researchers found that mothers—but not fathers—who were overweight or obese before pregnancy were more likely to report that their children had been diagnosed with ADHD or to have symptoms of hyperactivity, inattentiveness or impulsiveness at ages 7 to 8 years old. Their study appears in the Journal of Pediatrics.

The study team analyzed the NICHD Upstate KIDS Study, which recruited mothers of young infants and followed the children through age 8 years. In this analysis of nearly 2,000 children, the study team found that women who were obese before pregnancy were approximately twice as likely to report that their child had ADHD or symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention or impulsiveness, compared to children of women of normal weight before pregnancy.

The authors suggest that, if their findings are confirmed by additional studies, health care providers may want to screen children of obese mothers for ADHD so that they could be offered earlier interventions. 

The authors also note that health care providers could use evidence-based strategies to counsel women considering pregnancy on diet and lifestyle. Resources for plus-size pregnant women and their health care providers are available as part of NICHD’s Pregnancy for Every Body initiative.

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Associate Editor: Carla Garnett
Carla.Garnett@nih.gov

Staff Writers:

Eric Bock
Eric.Bock@nih.gov

Dana Talesnik
Dana.Talesnik@nih.gov

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