Mothers who develop diabetes during the first 26 weeks of pregnancy may have a higher risk of having a baby who will develop autism, a study published in the American Medical Association's JAMA Internal Medicine journal said.
"Future research should focus on determining whether early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes during pregnancy can reduce the risk of autism," EFE news agency quoted lead author Anny Xiang of the medical consortium Kaiser Permanente Southern California as saying.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops or is detected in 9.2 percent of pregnancies, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures show.
The study found that children whose mothers developed gestational diabetes after the 26th week of pregnancy did not have a higher risk of developing autism than children whose mothers did not have diabetes or gestational diabetes.
Researchers analysed the medical records of 322,000 children born at Kaiser Permanente Southern California's medical centres between January 1995 and December 2009.
They found that if the foetus was exposed to gestational diabetes before reaching the 26th week of gestation, the chances of the child developing autism increased 42 percent.
The authors noted that their project was an observational study, meaning that it reveals a correlation rather than describing a cause-effect relationship.
"Our study also suggests that early tests for autism should be standard for children born to women whose gestational diabetes was detected before 26 weeks of pregnancy," co-author Edward Curry said.