Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) exhibit compromised psychiatric health. Independent of obesity, women with PCOS are more susceptible to have anxiety and depression diagnoses and other neuropsychiatric disorders. During pregnancy women with PCOS display high circulating androgen levels that may cause prenatal androgen exposure affecting the growing fetus and increasing the risk of mood disorders in offspring. Increasing evidence supports a non-genetic, maternal contribution to the development of PCOS and anxiety disorders in the next generation. Prenatal androgenized rodent models reflecting the anxiety-like phenotype of PCOS in the offspring, found evidence for the altered placenta and androgen receptor function in the amygdala, together with changes in the expression of genes associated with emotional regulation and steroid receptors in the amygdala and hippocampus. These findings defined a previously unknown mechanism that may be critical in understanding how maternal androgen excess can increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders in daughters and partly in sons of PCOS mothers. Maternal obesity is another common feature of PCOS causing an unfavorable intrauterine environment which may contribute to psychiatric problems in the offspring. Whether environmental factors such as prenatal androgen exposure and obesity increase the offspring’s susceptibility to develop psychiatric ill-health will be discussed.
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