Metformin Use in PCOS Pregnancies Increases the Risk of Offspring Overweight at 4 Years of Age: Follow-Up of Two RCTs

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2018 Apr 1;103(4):1612-1621. doi: 10.1210/jc.2017-02419.


Context: Metformin is used in pregnancy in women with gestational diabetes mellitus, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and obesity. Metformin passes the placenta.

Objective: To explore the effects of metformin use in PCOS pregnancies on offspring growth to 4 years of age.

Design: Follow-up study of two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials.

Setting: Secondary care centers. Eleven public hospitals in Norway.

Participants: One hundred eighty-two children of mothers with PCOS who participated in two randomized controlled trials.

Intervention: Metformin 1700 or 2000 mg/d or placebo from first trimester to delivery in the original studies. No intervention in the current study.

Main outcome measures: Height, weight, body mass index (BMI), and overweight/obesity at 4 years of age and head circumference at 1 year of age, converted to z scores.

Results: The difference in height z score means between the groups at 4 years of age was nonsignificant (0.07 [95% confidence interval (CI): -0.22 to 0.36]; P = 0.651). At 4 years of age, the metformin group had higher weight z score than the placebo group [difference in means: 0.38 (0.07 to 0.69); P = 0.017] and higher BMI z score [difference in means: 0.45 (0.11 to 0.78); P = 0.010]. There were more overweight/obese children in the metformin group [26 (32%)] than in the placebo group [14 (18%)] at 4 years of age [odds ratio: 2.17 (1.04 to 4.61); P = 0.038]. The difference in mean head circumference z score at 1 year of age was 0.27 (-0.04 to 0.58; P = 0.093).

Conclusion: Metformin-exposed children had higher BMI and increased prevalence of overweight/obesity at 4 years of age.

Trial registration: NCT00159536 NCT03259919.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Child, Preschool
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Metformin / adverse effects
  • Metformin / therapeutic use*
  • Overweight / chemically induced*
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Metformin

Associated data