A new UK study presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference last week suggests that women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are also at a higher risk of developing mental disorders.
Carried out by researchers from the Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute at Cardiff University, the team assessed the mental health history of over 17,000 women diagnosed with PCOS.
The common condition affects five to 10 per cent of women globally and causes a range of distressing symptoms including reduced fertility, irregular periods, excessive facial and body hair, and acne, due to raised levels of male hormones.
The study followed the women for a minimum of six months, from their PCOS diagnosis and across routine follow-up assessments.
After comparing the women with PCOS with those unaffected by the condition, matching the participants for age, body mass index and geographical location, the team found that PCOS patients were more likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
In addition, children born to mothers with PCOS were also found to have a higher risk of developing ADHD and autism spectrum disorder.
The current findings also support previous studies which have found a link between PCOS and poor mental health in women. Although these studies have been smaller in size, together the findings highlight the importance of screening PCOS patients for mental health disorders.
The team now believe that women routine screenings should take place during clinical assessments, to help diagnose problems early in order to start treatment as soon as possible and improve quality of life.
The study adds to previous reports which suggest that high levels of testosterone during pregnancy may increase the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD and autism, in children.
The team now also want to investigate if genetic factors that contribute to the risk of PCOS also contribute to the risk of autism and ADHD, which could potentially lead to new treatments.