Prenatal exposure to glucocorticoids not a risk factor for ADHD
Exposure to glucocorticoids (GCs) during the prenatal period does not appear to have any effect on the risk of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a study has found.
The study used data from national registries in Denmark and included a cohort of 875,996 singletons born alive between 1996 and 2009. Of these, 42,099 (4.8 percent) were exposed to GCs prenatally, 177,165 (20.2 percent) were born to mothers with previous exposure to GCs, and 656,732 (75 percent) were born to mothers who were never-GC users.
Cumulative incidences of ADHD at 10 years of age were 2.65 percent among prenatally exposed children and 2.03 percent among unexposed children of never users.
At the general population level, compared with no exposure, prenatal exposure to GCs was associated with an increased risk of developing ADHD. The adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) was 1.43 (95 percent CI, 1.24 to 1.65) for systemic exposure and 1.23 (1.15 to 1.31) for local/inhaled exposure.
However, results from subanalyses of former GC users (aHR, 1.25; 1.20 to 1.29) and sibling design (aHR, 1.03; 0.87 to 1.20) indicated that the increased risk of ADHD with prenatal GC use was due to the presence of unmeasured confounding in the comparison with the general population cohort.
Despite the fact that both exogenous and endogenous GCs can cross the placental barrier and potentially affect foetal development, findings of the present study suggest that prenatal exposure to GCs is not a risk factor for developing ADHD, researchers said.
“The cause of ADHD is multifaceted and may involve risk factors common to ADHD and indications for GC treatment, as well as environmental and genetic factors,” they added.