Could women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) be at increased risk for mental health problems? And are their children more likely to have autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
That's the suggestion of a new British study that hints at a connection between the gynecologic condition and mental health issues, but does not prove cause and effect.
"PCOS is one of the most common conditions affecting young women today, and the effect on mental health is still underappreciated," said study author Dr. Aled Rees, who's with the Neurosciences and Mental Health Research Institute at Cardiff University in Wales.
The findings suggest that women with PCOS should be screened for mental health disorders, the study authors said.
In PCOS, a woman produces more male hormones than normal. Symptoms include pelvic pain, irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth, weight gain and infertility.
It affects 7 percent to 10 percent of women of childbearing age.
For the study, the researchers examined data from nearly 17,000 women in the United Kingdom with PCOS. These women were more likely to be diagnosed with conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and eating disorders than women without PCOS, the study found.
Children of mothers with PCOS were found to be at higher risk of developing ADHD and autism than other children, according to the study. It was published online April 10 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Rees noted that further research is needed to confirm the findings, since the investigators only found an association between PCOS and mental health issues.
"This is one of the largest studies to have examined the adverse mental health and neurodevelopmental outcomes associated with PCOS, and we hope the results will lead to increased awareness, earlier detection and new treatments," Rees said in a journal news release.
The U.S. Office on Women's Health has more on polycystic ovary syndrome.
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