Women With PCOS Should Not Fear Having a Child with Autism

Women With PCOS Should Not Fear Having a Child with Autism August 8, 2018

 

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Another day, another article detailing research done to determine the cause of autism. Scientists and medical professionals, work diligently to try to understand the cause of autism. A new study published last week in Transitional Psychiatry is drawing a ton of attention. Scientists did a study to determine if mothers with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome have a higher chance of having a child with autism. While the media wants people to believe there is a higher risk for mothers with PCOS the findings of the study aren’t that compelling. Misleading headlines across the media cause mothers to feel scared and guilty for their role in their child’s struggles.

One in ten women receives a diagnosis of PCOS. PCOS is a disorder that affects the sexual hormones in women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS have elevated levels of testosterone in their blood. Due to the hormonal imbalance, eggs are not released consistently from the ovaries. Women can have missed or irregular periods. They are at risk for developing cysts inside their ovaries. Infertility is associated with PCOS.

The study completed by Cambridge University’s Autism Research Centres reviewed 8,588 women with PCOS and their firstborn children. Researchers compared the group to 41,127 women without PCOS. Researchers concluded that women with PCOS had a 56% great chance of having a child with autism. However, this number is extremely deceiving. Women without PCOS had a 1.7% chance of having a child with autism, whereas a woman with PCOS had a 2.3% chance of having a child with autism.

The odds of women with and without PCOS having a child with PCOS is still relatively rare.  Scientists theorize that increased levels of testosterone seep through the placenta wall and impact the gene development in fetuses. However, they were unable to support this theory via the study.

Over the past week, I have read numerous headlines across the mainstream media alerting mothers with PCOS that they have an increased risk of having a child with autism. The headlines are misleading and perpetuate unneeded fear in mothers that have a prevalent hormonal disorder. Mothers with PCOS still have a very low probability of their child having autism.

Additionally, headlines such as one from Science Daily, “Women with polycystic ovary syndrome more likely to have a child with autism,” can elicit fear and panic in women that are already dealing with a disease that causes infertility. These headlines also perpetuate the mom-blaming stereotype society pushes on mothers of autistic children.

As a mother of a child with autism, I can attest that numerous people have suggested I caused my son’s autism. People have blamed me for taking medicine, eating specific foods, or not taking vitamins. All of these excuses are used to blame me for my son’s medical issues and autism. However, no factual data is supporting these claims.

While this study does provide some statistical data, the data is misleading. Scientists only looked at the first born child of the mother with PCOS. They did not study any other offspring of the mother.

Sure, scientists can theorize and say there is an increased chance of a mother with PCOS having a higher chance of a child with autism. However, 97.7% of mothers with PCOS have first-born children without autism.

Please don’t fear this study if you are a mother with PCOS. Also, remember even if you have a child with autism, children with autism are amazing and beautiful children. Autistic children may see the world differently. Kids on the spectrum still love, learn, and explore the world. A child with autism can grow up and do amazing things.

Please don’t let this study make you feel scared or guilty.

There is nothing to fear about Autism.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jim Jones

    Magazine names Channel-Port aux Basques most autism-friendly town in Canada

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/port-aux-basques-autism-award-1.4602770

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Hey women with PCOS: you should just stop having kids because, you know, a child with autism would be better off had they never been born….

  • Adrian

    Scientists theorize that increased levels of testosterone seep through the placenta wall and impact the gene development in fetuses. However, they were unable to support this theory via the study.

    Just a little quibble, for now at least it is merely an hypothesis (and an unconfirmed one at that), not a theory in the scientific sense of the word. /nitpicker

    Aside from that, great job pointing out the limitations of the study and the fact that even if the hypothesis does turn out to be correct, the actual probability remains very low. Most humans suck at statistics and probabilities (myself included ^^”), so it’s important that we have people who can keep their cool and put things in the correct perspective when big scary numbers like “+56% to chances of autistic kid” pop up so we don’t end up running around in a panic like anti-vaxxers with their hair on fire 😛

  • You are very welcome. I wanted mothers to know they aren’t in imminent danger by having PCOS. The media does a great job of scaring us about Autism.

  • swbarnes2

    The headlines are misleading and perpetuate unneeded fear in mothers that have a prevalent hormonal disorder. Mothers with PCOS still have a very low probability of their child having autism.

    It can be true both that women with PCOS have low odds of having a child with autism and that they have a higher chance than women without PCOS. It’s not misleading to state the second if it’s scientifically supported.

    While this study does provide some statistical data, the data is misleading. Scientists only looked at the first born child of the mother with PCOS. They did not study any other offspring of the mother.

    That’s because autism rates are affected by birth order. They wanted a cleaner data set. This is not a valid reason to think the study is scientifically unsound. And this seems to be your only reason to think the study is wrong.

    It’s bad when media coverage makes autism sound like a dreadfully awful diagnosis. It can be bad when the media presents the risk increase without mentioning that a even a large percent increase of a small risk is still a small risk. But none of that makes the study incorrect.