A recent study has linked mother’s polycystic ovary syndrome with a higher likelihood that the newborn baby will suffer from autism.
Research was led by Kyriaki Kosidou, a psychiatrist affiliated with the Department of Public Health Sciences, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
At first, experts collected medical data pertaining to approximately 24,000 individuals who had been born between 1984 and 2007, and had been diagnosed with autism.
A comparative analysis was conducted afterwards, by evaluating this information against data referring to 200,000 subjects who didn’t suffer from this type of brain development disorder. The results were shared with the public through the journal Molecular Psychiatry, published on December 8.
The most important discovery made by scientists was that children whose mothers had been affected by polycystic ovary syndrome during their pregnancy were much more likely to be autistic.
More precisely, their risk of experiencing this condition was approximately 59% higher, in contrast with that of the study participants whose moms didn’t have PCOS.
In addition, the likelihood of giving birth to an autistic baby grew among obese pregnant women who had this type of hormonal imbalance.
Experts believe that the results of this new study are in accordance with prior research, which had suggested that when an expectant mother’s sex hormones are disrupted, this negatively impacts fetal development, leading to disorders such as autism.
Polycystic ovary syndrome, whose actual triggers remain unknown, refers to perturbations suffered by sex hormones secreted by the ovaries. Normally, in the woman’s body, there is just a limited amount of androgens or male sex hormones (such as testosterone, DHT and androstenedione).
However, in PCOS, which is encountered among approximately 1 in 7 of all females of child-bearing age, production of such hormones is intensified, which results in a series of easily observable modifications.
More precisely, patients with this disorder tend to gain extra weight, being unable to shed any pounds, and are affected by acne and hirsutism (excessive hairiness across the face and body).
In addition, they begin losing scalp hair, develop ovarian cysts, and are more likely to have their menstrual cycle perturbed, as their ovulation stops.
Their periods become highly unpredictible and irregular, sometimes occurring less than 9 times per year. While certain PCOS sufferers no longer experience menstruation, others have overly abundant menstrual flow.
In addition, women with this condition are frequently confronted with fertility issues, having significant difficulty conceiving a baby or taking the pregnancy to term.
Generally, they are three times more at risk of suffering a miscarriage, and are also susceptible to giving birth to a premature baby. Moreover, they are also more likely to develop preeclampsia (excessively high blood pressure) or gestational diabetes.
Now, it appears that this study has added a new health concern on an already long list of afflictions and health hazards: the high probability that the offspring of a PCOS mother will suffer from autism.
Such risks are even more statistically significant among obese pregnant women, because of much more elevated concentrations of androgens in the body. This overwhelming exposure to male sex hormones is extremely damaging to the fetus, negatively impacting its development.
While the findings may sound alarming, in fact study authors admit that for now just an association has been found between the two disorders, and not an actual cause and effect relationship.
More extensive research would have to be conducted in order to prove that polycystic ovary syndrome affecting expectant mothers is indeed one of the factors to blame for the growing prevalence of autism among children nowadays.
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