Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Autism: What's the Connection?

by Diane Domina Senior Content Production Editor

Polycystic ovary syndrome, commonly called PCOS, is a condition that affects about 1 in 10 women and is caused by high testosterone levels. PCOS is associated with symptoms like delayed puberty, irregular menstrual cycles, and excess body hair. And, according to a study from Cambridge University's Autism Research Centre in the United Kingdom, PCOS also increases a woman’s risk for having a child with autism.

In 2015, the Cambridge research team discovered that children with autism have higher-than-normal levels of sex hormones, including testosterone, before birth, which cause “masculinization” in the developing baby. Then, to determine whether testosterone might cross the placenta during pregnancy, exposing unborn babies of women with PCOS to higher levels of this hormone and affecting brain development, the researchers compared 8,588 women with PCOS and their children to a group of 41,127 women without PCOS and their children.

They discovered that, after adjusting for other factors, women with PCOS had a 2.3 percent chance of having a child with autism, compared to 1.7 percent in women without PCOS. A number of additional studies have since confirmed these results, including one that showed a connection between PCOS and autism in women with the hormonal disorder.

Sourced from: Translational Psychiatry

Diane Domina
Meet Our Writer
Diane Domina

Diane works across brands at Remedy Health Media, producing digital content for its sites and newsletters. Prior to joining the team, she was the editorial director at HealthCommunities.