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If you’re one of the estimated 7 million US women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), then you may be at higher risk for certain mental health disorders, according to a recent study out of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute at Cardiff University.
The study, presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in England, highlights the connection between the symptoms associated with PCOS and the psychological and emotional distress those symptoms can cause. PCOS is characterized by, among other things, symptoms of elevated male hormone levels, such as excess facial hair, excess body hair, hair loss on the scalp, and acne. Although PCOS also tends to cause irregular periods, it often escapes diagnosis until a woman has trouble getting pregnant, which alone can be a major source of stress and trauma for women. Find out the eight silent signs you may have PCOS.
While previous studies suggested a link between PCOS and poor mental health, they were small and didn’t control for other factors that may have impacted mental health besides PCOS. The researchers from Cardiff University dug deeper by analyzing data extracted from an existing study involving over 17,000 women who had been diagnosed with PCOS. The study followed the women for a minimum of six months following diagnosis of PCOS and compared them with a control group of women without PCOS. What the researchers found was that women with PCOS were more likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
Armed with the knowledge that high levels of testosterone during pregnancy increase the risk of ADHD and autism, the researchers also followed the women who became pregnant, along with their children, and found that children born to mothers with PCOS were at greater risk of developing ADHD and autism spectrum disorders.
Based on these findings, lead study author Dr. Aled Rees suggest that women with PCOS be screened for mental health disorders so they can be diagnosed and start treatment as soon as possible, which will ultimately improve their quality of life. In addition, their children should be monitored for signs of ADHD and autism spectrum disorders.
Next, learn the 12 things every woman needs to know about PCOS.