Children of women with PCOS may have higher risk of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental problems, says study
These risks were further increased if the mother also had complications like obesity, gestational diabetes, caesarean delivery and others, the study said
Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS is a hormonal disorder that occurs due to an excess of male hormones in the female body, which causes the ovaries to not function properly. With a global prevalence of 6-20 percent - and Indian prevalence of 9.13 percent to 22.5 percent according to the National Health Portal - PCOS is also the most common cause of infertility among women.
Many studies have shown that women with PCOS have more difficulties getting pregnant and have a higher incidence of miscarriages, apart from other health issues like hirsutism, acne, obesity and diabetes. A new study published in the journal Human Reproduction is the first to show that children born to women with PCOS may be at an increased risk of developing a wide range of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders.
The study, conducted by researchers in Sweden, China and Finland, found that such increased risks existed not only for babies born to mothers with PCOS but also that these risks were further increased if the mother also had complications like obesity, gestational diabetes, caesarean delivery and others.
Maternal PCOS and psychiatric disorders in offspring
The largest of its kind, this study included over a million babies born in Finland between 1996 and 2014. Data of 24,682 children born to mothers with PCOS and 1,073,071 children born to mothers without PCOS was collected. All children were then followed up with until 31 December 2018, which is roughly till the time the kids turned 22 years old.
Stratified analyses were performed on all data to test the independent role of PCOS, as well as the joint effects of PCOS with maternal obesity, perinatal problems, caesarean delivery, gestational diabetes, use of fertility treatments, etc. The analyses were also adjusted for factors like maternal age, smoking, psychiatric disorders, use of drugs during pregnancy and systemic inflammatory diseases wherever applicable.
Higher prevalence of mental health issues
During the follow-up period, the researchers reportedly found that of the total 1,097,753 children included in the study, 9.8% were diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental or psychiatric disorder. The risk of being diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder was reportedly 1.3 times higher among children born to mothers with PCOS. Among these children, the following disorders had a higher prevalence:
- Sleep disorders - 1.5 times increased prevalence
- ADHD, conduct and tic disorders - 1.4 times increased prevalence
- Intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorders - 1.4 times increased prevalence
- Developmental and eating disorders - nearly 1.4 times increased prevalence
- Anxiety disorders - 1.3 times increased prevalence
- Mood disorders - nearly 1.3 times increased prevalence
- Other behavioural and emotional disorders - nearly 1.5 times increased prevalence
Severe obesity among mothers with PCOS was observed to be a huge contributing factor to psychiatric disorder prevalence in the children and perinatal complications - particularly gestational diabetes and caesarean delivery - increased the risk of this prevalence by 1.7 times.
These findings indicate that healthcare providers across the world have to understand that children born to mothers with PCOS are at a higher risk of mental health problems, and are in need of psychological support and mental health follow-ups for longer periods of time. This also underlines the need for proper counselling for women with PCOS so that they are aware of the risks involved and have the resources and foreknowledge to monitor their offspring’s mental health better.
For more information, read our article on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
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