(CBS) Pregnant moms who have diabetes or are in poverty are more likely to have a child with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a new study suggests.
But the combination of the two risk factors appears to increase the risk substantially more, according to the study, published in the Jan. 2 issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
Gestational diabetes mellitus is high blood sugar that occurs during pregnancy, typically between the second and third trimesters. According to the study authors, rates of gestatitional diabetes have been rising steadily for 20 years, particularly among ethnic minorities and poorer individuals.
"Mothers should be aware that gestational diabetes can affect her fetus," study author Dr. Yoko Nomura, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City, told CNN.
For the study, researchers examined 212 children who lived in Queens, New York City. The researchers examined the kids throughout preschool until they were 6 years old to look for signs of ADHD. The researchers also considered whether the child's mother had gestational diabetes or was of low socioeconomic status during pregnancy.
What did the researchers find? Children in poorer families were more inattentive and hyperactive than children from wealthier families. Children of moms who had gestational diabetes were also less attentive, but did not show any differences in hyperactivity. By age 6, a child whose mother had either gestational diabetes or a low socioeconomic status was two times more likely to develop ADHD compared with children whose mothers didn't have either risk factor.
But when both risk factors were combined, children who were exposed to gestational diabetes and poverty were a whopping 14 times more likely to develop ADHD. These children also had a lower IQ, poorer language abilities, and behavioral and emotional problems.
What can pregnant moms do to reduce their child's risk of developing ADHD?
It might not be possible to change one's socioeconomic status, but poorer women tend to eat unhealthier, according to the authors, which could increase risk for developing diabetes. The study reinforces the benefits of good prenatal care, the authors said, so if you do have gestational diabetes, see a doctor regularly.
"Get good obstetrical care, have your blood glucose levels monitored regularly, eat a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and sugar, and this will certainly decrease your child's risk for ADHD, as well as for other cognitive and behavioral problems," study co-author Dr. Jeffrey M. Halperin, a distinguished professor of psychology at Queens College in New York City, told HealthDay. "If a woman had gestational diabetes during one pregnancy, she is much more likely to have it in later pregnancies, so perhaps one can take preemptive steps to reduce this risk."
More than 5.2 million children ages 3 to 17 have ADHD. About 2 to 10 percent of expectant mothers have gestational diabetes.
WebMD has more ADHD.