Study sheds light on the developmental origins of polycystic ovarian syndrome

New research suggests that the way baby girls develop in the womb may affect whether or not they develop polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)* as adults and the severity of the symptoms if they do.

This major population study examines maternal factors during pregnancy and their impact on the subsequent development of PCOS, and is the first to reconcile previous conflicting research on the developmental origins of the syndrome.

Dr Michael Davies, senior research fellow at the Research Centre in Reproductive Health at the University of Adelaide, Australia, told the 21st annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology today (Wednesday 22 June): "Our research suggests that, during pregnancy and birth, there are several different factors working through different pathways that are implicated in the overlapping and varying symptoms of PCOS that emerge in the offspring's later life".

"Existing research has already established links between foetal growth restriction, postnatal growth and metabolic disorders such as diabetes in adulthood. The idea that events in very early life can have an enduring, complex and important influence on subsequent disease is referred to as developmental programming, and this research theme has been applied to PCOS recently. Different studies have produced conflicting evidence that shows that large babies grow to become heavier adults with polycystic ovaries, but that the most severe symptoms of PCOS are associated with growth restriction as a foetus."

"Our research examines the relationship between symptoms of PCOS in adulthood and foetal conditions in women born in a major hospital in Adelaide in the 1970s. Our findings support the proposition that there is an inter-generational growth path leading to menstrual irregularity, while, at the same time, other symptoms may be one of number of consequences of restricted foetal growth."

Dr Davies and his team are studying a group o

Contact: Mary Rice
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology

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