Maternal polycystic ovarian syndrome and early offspring development

Hum Reprod. 2018 Jul 1;33(7):1307-1315. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dey087.


Study question: Is maternal polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) associated with developmental delays in offspring?

Summary answer: Offspring of mothers with PCOS were at higher risk of failure on the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ).

What is known already: There is growing evidence that offspring of mothers with PCOS may be at higher risk for developmental disorders due to potential exposure to hyperandrogenism and insulin resistance. Few studies exist regarding maternal PCOS and early childhood development in the USA.

Study design, size, duration: The Upstate KIDS Study is a population-based prospective cohort study of infants born between 2008 and 2010 in New York State (excluding New York City), originally designed to study-and finding no impact of-infertility treatment exposure on child development. Children were followed up to 36 months of age. In all, 4453 mothers completed one or more developmental screening instruments for 5388 children (35.5% twins) up to 36 months of age.

Participants/materials, setting, methods: In our study, 458 mothers (10.3%) reported a healthcare provider's diagnosis of PCOS, as well as the related treatment received, on the baseline study questionnaire. Parents completed the ASQ on their child's development at 4, 8, 12, 18, 24, 30 and 36 months of age to assess fine motor, gross motor, communication, personal-social functioning and problem-solving cognitive domains. We used generalized linear mixed models to estimate odds ratios (OR) between PCOS diagnosis and failures in the ASQ adjusted for maternal age, race, BMI, education, marital status, smoking, alcohol consumption, diabetes, insurance and plurality.

Main results and the role of chance: Diagnosis of PCOS was associated with increased risk of the offspring failing the fine motor domain (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.77; 95% CI: 1.09, 2.89), largely driven by higher risk in female singletons (aOR = 2.23; 1.16, 4.29). Twins of mothers with PCOS had higher risk of failing the communication (aOR = 1.94; 1.19, 3.18) and personal-social functioning (aOR = 1.76; 1.12, 2.77) domains compared to twins born to mothers without PCOS. Compared to offspring of women without PCOS, offspring of women who reported receiving no treatment for their PCOS had a stronger association with failing the ASQ (aOR = 1.68; 0.95, 2.75) than the association among offspring of women who reported PCOS treatment (aOR = 1.16; 0.79, 1.73).

Limitations, reasons for caution: Further study is needed to confirm the role of maternal PCOS in early offspring development with provider-validated diagnosis of PCOS.

Wider implications of the findings: If confirmed, these findings suggest that offspring of women with PCOS may be at increased risk for developmental delay.

Study funding/competing interest(s): Supported by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD; contracts HHSN275201200005C, #HHSN267200700019C). Authors have no competing interests to declare.

Trial registration number: Not applicable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Adjustment