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Gestational diabetes and maternal and infant mental health

This PhD project entitled ‘Is gestational diabetes associated with adverse maternal and child mental health outcomes?’ aims to establish whether or not gestational diabetes is associated with adverse maternal and child mental health outcomes.

Gestational diabetes (GDM) is diabetes which occurs for the first time during pregnancy. It affects around one in ten women and is associated with a number of adverse outcomes for mother and baby. These include obstetric complications and an increased risk of subsequent type two diabetes in mothers. Adverse neuro-behavioural outcomes have also been observed in the child.

Mental disorder during pregnancy is even more prevalent and is the most common illness to affect women during the perinatal period (during pregnancy or one year following delivery), with around one in five affected. While it is known that depression is twice as common in the general population amongst those who have diabetes, as those who do not, less is known about the relationship between GDM and perinatal mental disorder.

While both GDM and perinatal mental disorder have been associated with adverse neuro-behavioural outcomes in the child, the outcomes in children from mothers experiencing GDM with co-occurring mental disorder have not been studied.

Thus the aim of this project is firstly to establish the risk of perinatal mental disorder in women with GDM. Secondly, in women with GDM, the risk of developing type two diabetes in those with mental disorder versus those without will be compared. Thirdly, the risk of adverse neuro-behavioural outcomes up to the age of seven will be compared between children of women with GDM and mental disorder versus children of women with GDM and no mental disorder. If associations are found, potential mechanisms for each of these relationships will be explored.

The first study consists of a systematic review and meta-analysis (if sufficient studies are identified) to estimate prevalence and odds of perinatal mental disorders in women with GDM.

The second study is an epidemiological analysis of the Born in Bradford cohort. This is a multi-ethnic birth cohort of 12,453 women with 13,776 pregnancies and 13,858 babies delivered at Bradford Royal Infirmary in the UK between March 2007 and December 2010. There is linkage within the cohort to primary care and education data for the mothers and their children.

This work has the potential to provide us with new knowledge and a better understanding of the relationship between GDM and maternal and child mental health. In doing so, there is the opportunity to develop interventions which may serve to reduce exposure to these adversities and ultimately improve the health of both women with GDM and their children.

Who is involved?

This package of work is being conducted as a PhD by Dr Claire Wilson. She is supervised by Louise Howard: Professor of Women’s Mental Health, King’s College London, Khalida Ismail: Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine, King’s College London, Emily Simonoff: Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, King’s College London and Rebecca Reynolds: Professor of Metabolic Medicine, University of Edinburgh.

There is collaboration with the Born in Bradford study team, including Professor John Wright: the study’s chief investigator and Director of Research, Bradford Institute for Health Research.

The PhD is funded by an MRC (Medical Research Council) Clinical Research Training Fellowship.

For more information about this project, please contact

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