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Children Of Parents With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome May Have Increased Risk Of Illness

PCOS has long been understudied and its effects may reach beyond the affected person.

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Rachael Funnell

Social Editor and Staff Writer

clockJul 14 2022, 16:28 UTC
polycystic ovary syndrome
PCOS can be debilitating for those that have it, and it may affect their children's health, too. Image credit: Alena Menshikova / Shutterstock.com

The largest ever study to investigate the association of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and childhood health has found that children born to parents with the condition are more likely to experience illness at a young age. Looking at over one million children born in Quebec, Canada, it found that infections, allergies, and other illnesses were more common among children whose mothers had PCOS during pregnancy.

Of the one million children enrolled in the study, which was published in the journal Human Reproduction, there were 7,160 born to mothers with PCOS. Of those pregnancies, it was found that children of PCOS mothers were 32 percent more likely to be hospitalized from illness compared to children whose mothers didn’t have the condition.

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They have an increased risk of around third of being hospitalized for complications related to infectious disease and were almost 50 percent more likely to wind up in hospital due to allergies and allergy-related conditions, such as asthma.

Children born to women with PCOS also had an increased risk of hospitalization for illness related to the following:

- Metabolism – 59 percent
- The gut – 72 percent
- Central nervous system – 74 percent
- Ears – 34 percent
- Respiratory problems – 32 percent
- Mental and behavioral problems – 68 percent

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While the research is an observational study, and therefore unable to identify for absolute certain that PCOS is the driving factor for the increased likelihood of hospitalization among this group, the researchers say it helps to fill in the bigger picture of PCOS which has long been understudied.

“These findings fill a big gap in what we know about the long-term health of children whose mothers have PCOS,” said study lead Dr Nathalie Auger, associate professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, University of Montreal, Canada, in a statement.

“Primary care doctors and obstetricians should consider identifying women with PCOS before conception and offering early interventions... Family doctors and paediatricians should consider monitoring children more closely after birth to minimise morbidity. Greater parental awareness may help improve outcomes in children.”

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PCOS is a condition that affects people with ovaries as they produce an abnormal amount of androgens, a type of sex hormone. It can result in multiple fluid-filled sacs on the ovaries and disrupt the menstrual cycle, potentially leading to fertility complications.

Despite affecting around 20 percent of reproductive-aged female patients, there is currently no cure for PCOS though there are medications to manage its symptoms. With so many people affected, and now the possible association of the condition with negative health outcomes for offspring, the study highlights the need for further research into this debilitating condition.


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