August, 2018

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Autism Rates Higher in Women with PCOS & their Children

By Chelsea Toledo, M.A. on August 30, 2018

Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is about four times as likely to occur in males than in females. Because of that trend, scientists have suspected an association between ASD and testosterone. Elevated testosterone levels during gestation have been linked to an array of neurological conditions – including ASD – in both male and female children.


What’s New: A new study explored the association between ASD and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition in which women of reproductive age produce excess testosterone. The researchers examined existing data from the electronic health records of more than 60,000 women in the UK – 26,000 with PCOS and 1,000 with ASD – from 1990 to 2014. They also looked at the data from more than 8,000 children born to mothers with PCOS.


The researchers found:


  • Women with ASD were more than twice as likely than their peers with typical development to have PCOS.
  • Women with PCOS were nearly twice as likely than their peers without to condition to have ASD.
  • The odds of having a child with ASD significantly increased among women with PCOS.


Why it’s important: This study suggests a connection between PCOS and ASD. Future research could lead to improved screening and treatment based on this finding.

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