According to research published in the journal Nature Medicine, pregnant women with PCOS may have higher-than-normal levels of a hormone called anti-Müllerian (AMH). When female babies are exposed to these high levels of AMH in the womb, it could cause them to develop PCOS themselves when they get older, the researchers theorize.
In other words, if your mom had PCOS she may have passed the condition on to you during pregnancy due to high AMH levels. Scientists believe exposure to too much AMH in utero may prompt the brain to raise production of male hormones tied to PCOS.
The research is still preliminary, but if confirmed it could lead to a major breakthrough in understanding PCOS. Researchers believe they may have also identified a possible cure for the condition, which they plan to test on women later this year.
PCOS affects as many as 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. Women with the condition have higher than normal levels of male hormones. Symptoms include irregular periods, difficulty getting pregnant, acne, excessive body-hair growth, and weight gain.
To reach their conclusions, scientists in France tested groups of pregnant women with and without PCOS. They found the women with PCOS had AMH levels about 30 percent higher than the norm.
Next, the researchers injected AMH into pregnant mice to see if the hormone would induce PCOS symptoms such as infrequent ovulation and delays getting pregnant in their female offspring. It did.
The scientists treated the offspring with an IVF drug called cetrorelix, which is used to control women’s hormones, and the PCOS symptoms disappeared.
Of course, what works in mice may not work in humans. The research team told the New Scientist they plan to test cetrorelix on women with PCOS in a clinical trial before the end of the year.