Hormonal Disorder Linked to Pregnancy Complications: Study

FRIDAY Oct. 14, 2011 -- A common hormonal disorder among women known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) seems to be associated with an increased risk for pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia, diabetes and premature birth, a new study indicates.

PCOS affects between 5 percent and 15 percent of women of reproductive age, according to background information in the study published in the Oct. 13 online edition of BMJ. Symptoms include irregular periods, ovulation problems, weight gain and excessive hair growth, and women with the disorder typically have small cysts on their ovaries.

In the study, Swedish researchers compared just under 3,800 births among women with PCOS with nearly 1.2 million births among women without the condition, and found that women with PCOS were more likely to be obese and to use assisted reproductive technology.

Women with PCOS were 45 percent more likely to experience preeclampsia (a condition that causes high blood pressure in pregnant women) and more than twice as likely to develop diabetes during pregnancy and/or to give birth prematurely, compared to women without PCOS, the investigators found.

In addition, babies born to women with PCOS were more likely to be large for gestational age and tended to develop asphyxia (a lack of oxygen) during labor, according to Nathalie Roos and colleagues at the Karolinska Institute and Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm.

The increased risk of pregnancy complications among women with PCOS could not be attributed to advanced age, being overweight or obese, or the use of assisted reproductive technology, the researchers pointed out in a journal news release.

"These women may need increased surveillance during pregnancy and childbirth. Future research would benefit from focusing on glucose control, medical treatment and hormonal status among women with polycystic ovary syndrome during pregnancy," the researchers concluded.

"It is clear that women with polycystic ovary syndrome should be considered 'high risk' obstetric patients and that midwives, general practitioners and obstetricians should monitor these women as such," Nick Macklon, of the University of Southampton in England, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

However, "more evidence is required to support the use of currently used interventions designed to reduce perinatal risk, and this requires a greater understanding of the different polycystic ovary syndrome phenotypes and the underlying mechanisms by which this common condition alters pregnancy outcomes," Macklon added.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about polycystic ovary syndrome.

Posted: October 2011


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