Children born to mothers with a hormonal imbalance run a much higher risk of developing autism, according to a new study released by Sweden’s Karolinska Institute on Tuesday.
The findings, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, link an imbalance called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children.
ASD represents a range of neurodevelopmental disorders in children.
“We found that a maternal diagnosis of PCOS increased the risk of ASD in the offspring by 59 per cent”, said Kyriaki Kosidou, lead researcher at Karolinska’s Department of Public Health Sciences.
The causes are not entirely clear, but evidence suggests that exposure to certain sex hormones early in life -- from mothers with PCOS who are producing excessive amounts of androgens -- can play a role in the development of autism in children. “The risk was further increased among mothers with both PCOS and obesity,” Kosidou said in the press release.
Between 5 and 15pc of women of child-bearing age are affected by PCOS.