BACKGROUND: Maternal pre-pregnancy obesity may impair infant neuropsychological development, but it is unclear whether intrauterine or confounding factors drive this association.
METHODS: We assessed whether maternal pre-pregnancy obesity was associated with neuropsychological development in 1,827 Spanish children. At 5 years, cognitive and psychomotor development was assessed using McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms using the Criteria of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and autism spectrum disorder symptoms using the Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test. Models were adjusted for sociodemographic factors and maternal intelligence quotient. We used paternal obesity as negative control exposure as it involves the same source of confounding than maternal obesity.
RESULTS: The percentage of obese mothers and fathers was 8% and 12%, respectively. In unadjusted models, children of obese mothers had lower scores than children of normal weight mothers in all McCarthy subscales. After adjustment, only the verbal subscale remained statistically significantly reduced (beta: -2.8; 95% confidence interval: -5.3, -0.2). No associations were observed among obese fathers. Maternal and paternal obesity were associated with an increase in ADHD-related symptoms. Parental obesity was not associated with autism symptoms.
CONCLUSION: Maternal pre-pregnancy obesity was associated with a reduction in offspring verbal scores at preschool age.