Prenatal Maternal Autoimmune Disease Linked to a 16% Increased Risk of Mental Disorders in Offspring

May 02, 2022

Common Maternal Autoimmune Diseases Include Type 1 Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, and Psoriasis 

A group of international researchers recently set out to answer the question, “Is prenatal maternal autoimmune disease associated with an increased long-term risk of mental disorders in offspring?” The study’s authors began their research by acknowledging that maternal immune activation during pregnancy has previously been associated with a risk of several mental disorders in offspring in childhood.  However, they pointed out that little is known about the effect of maternal autoimmune diseases during pregnancy and if these diseases could be linked to mental health disorders in offspring during and after childhood. In order to find an answer to their question, the team conducted a population-based study involving births of over 2 million infants born in Denmark that included up to 38 years of follow up information. Birth data was collected from Danish national registers from 1978 to 2018. Information on maternal autoimmune disease diagnosed before or after pregnancy was obtained by the Danish National Patient Register. Data analyses were conducted from March 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021. After analyzing the data, the research team discovered that maternal autoimmune disease diagnosed before childbirth was linked to a 16% increased overall risk of mental disorders in offspring. Additionally, they found that prenatal exposure to most common autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis, was associated with a significantly overall increased risk of mental disorders in offspring. Interestingly, the association of type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis in pregnancy produced a risk for the offspring that lasted into early adulthood. Moreover, children of mothers with autoimmune diseases diagnosed before delivery were more likely to develop a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., intellectual disability, autism, and ADHD), organic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and mood disorders. The authors conclude that individuals who were prenatally exposed to autoimmune disease should receive early screenings for mental disorders and receive appropriate intervention. They also suggest these same individuals may benefit from long-term surveillance for mental disorders since some conditions did not manifest until adulthood.  


Original Study 

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons