A new study has implicated women with a condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in contributing to the rise in the number of autism.

Researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute announced their findings after conducting a wide reaching study focused on what might be causing the number of cases of autism to climb.

Though they can’t rule conclusively PCOS contributes to autism and have invited other researchers to follow up on their initial observations they did observe women with PCOS were much more likely to give birth to a child who was on the spectrum for autism than those who didn’t have the condition.

The researchers surmise children in utero of mothers with PCOS are exposed to elevated levels of androgen (a sex hormone) that is the result of imbalances in the mother’s hormone level because of PCOS. Androgens are a hormone group responsible for development of male-typical characteristics, they also have an affect on the formation of the brain and the nervous system.

They also noticed that PCOS, plus obesity, had a notable influence on the child’s likelihood of registering on the autism spectrum. This of course stands to reason as obesity has the ability to augment the body’s hormone levels because of how it affects insulin levels.

After studying all children born in Sweden born from 1984 to 2007 they concluded with some degree of certainty anywhere from 5-15% of children born to mothers with PCOS would register on the spectrum of autism. They wrote, “We found that a maternal diagnosis of PCOS increased the risk of ASD in the offspring by 59 per cent.” 

Renee Gardner was a senior investigator on the study said even though the evidence leans to support PCOS’s affect on autism they can’t say with 100% confidence it is directly responsible for autism. “It is too early to make specific recommendations to clinicians in terms of care for pregnant women with PCOS, though increased awareness of this relationship might facilitate earlier detection of ASD in children whose mothers have been diagnosed with PCOS,” she said.

Their research supports a growing consensus among physicians calling for the regulation of hormone levels via Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).

BHRT looks to help balance hormone levels naturally through supplementation with hormones designed to mimic those produced by the body.