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Maternal Diabetes and Overweight Linked to Increased Risk of Congenital Heart Defects in Offspring, Finnish Study Finds

A groundbreaking cohort study conducted in Finland has revealed a significant association between maternal diabetes and overweight with an elevated risk of congenital heart defects (CHDs) in offspring. The study, which analyzed data from 620,751 children born between 2006 and 2016, sheds light on the distinct teratogenic mechanisms associated with these maternal conditions.

Key Findings:

  1. Maternal type 1 diabetes (T1D) was linked to a 3.77-fold increase in the adjusted odds for any CHD in offspring.
  2. The risk of CHDs was heightened in six out of nine CHD subgroups associated with maternal T1D.
  3. Maternal overweight and obesity showed associations with odds of offspring CHD, particularly in specific anatomical subgroups.

Notable Results:

  • Maternal T1D was associated with an increased risk for nearly all types of CHDs in offspring.
  • Maternal overweight was linked to left ventricular outflow tract obstruction (LVOTO), while maternal obesity was associated with complex defects and right outflow tract obstruction (RVOTO).
  • Maternal overweight demonstrated lower odds of ventricular septal defects (VSD) in offspring.

Distinct Teratogenic Mechanisms: The study suggests that maternal T1D and overweight or obesity have distinct teratogenic mechanisms, influencing different CHD subtypes. The findings emphasize the importance of understanding these mechanisms for targeted prevention and intervention strategies.

Public Health Implications:

  • Maternal T1D poses a significant risk factor for a broad range of CHDs in offspring.
  • Maternal overweight and obesity contribute to increased risk, particularly for specific CHD subtypes.
  • Prevention strategies targeting maternal diabetes and obesity may help reduce the burden of CHDs at the population level.

Calling for Further Research: The study highlights the need for additional research to unravel the underlying molecular-level mechanisms associated with maternal overweight and obesity in increasing the risk for specific CHD subtypes.

These findings could have substantial implications for maternal healthcare, emphasizing the importance of managing diabetes and promoting a healthy weight during pregnancy to mitigate the risk of congenital heart defects in newborns.

Credit: JAMA Network Open, Riitta Turunen