Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that’s been linked to fertility issues, depression, weight gain, acne, anxiety, and depression. Now, new research links it to yet another medical condition — autism.
If you have PCOS, you’re not at risk. But your baby could be.
According to a new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, moms who’ve been diagnosed with PCOS have a 59 percent increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
This wasn’t some random, small study, FYI. Researchers from the Karolinka Institute in Sweden analyzed data from all children born in Sweden between 1984 and 2007 and found 24,000 on the autism spectrum.
Further analysis of the info led to this significant link with PCOS. It’s the first study to do so. But now, experts are tasked with figuring out why.
Here’s what’s known so far: If you have PCOS, your body makes more androgens (like testosterone) than other women. This imbalance throws all your hormones out of whack.
Aside from all the symptoms we mentioned earlier, pregnancy becomes a challenge. And not just getting pregnant. Women with PCOS also have higher rates of miscarriage and premature delivery.
But here’s the thing with androgens. They’re also known to affect the development of the brain and central nervous system. And apparently, being exposed to those androgens in the womb affects baby, too.
Researchers found the risk of having a baby with autism was even greater when the mom-to-be had PCOS and was obese. The two conditions go hand in hand, but obesity can increase androgen production even more.
Researchers do acknowledge that other things might be at play here, too, including family genes and other metabolic problems that affect women with PCOS.
But still — 59 percent? That’s hard to ignore. As is the fact that PCOS is extremely common. As many as 5 million women have it — as many as 1 in 10 women of childbearing age.
So what can you do with this info? Well, it’s too early for researchers to make recommendations. But they do urge women who have PCOS to talk to their providers about this connection. And not just your OB/GYN and midwife, but your child’s pediatrician.
Knowing your medical history might enable an earlier detection of ASD to be made in your child.