A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Spring, 2017 | Number 2, Volume 31

Maternal hirsutism linked to higher odds of ASD in children

New evidence suggesting a link between autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and elevated prenatal exposure to male hormones comes from a study involving women with hirsutism. 

Hirsutism is a condition in which individuals grow heavy hair in regions where it normally does not appear. Women with hirsutism may grow hair on their upper lips, chin, chest, and back. The condition is associated with an excess of androgens (male hormones). 

In an earlier, large-scale study, Brian Lee and colleagues found that children of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)—a condition that results in elevated levels of androgens—had increased odds of receiving an ASD diagnosis. In the new study, they determined that maternal hirsutism also increases the odds of ASD in children. They report, “The most adjusted odds ratios for associations with ASD for hirsutism diagnosis before birth and lifetime diagnosis of hirsutism were 1.64 and 1.26.” 

They conclude, “The presence of an association of maternal hirsutism with child ASD is consistent with the hypothesis that androgens may be involved in the etiology of ASD.”


“Maternal hirsutism and autism spectrum disorders in offspring,” B. K. Lee, S. Arver, L. Widman, R. M. Gardner, C. Magnusson, C. Dalman, and K. Kosidou, Autism Research, April 6, 2017 (epub prior to print publication). Address: Brian K. Lee, [email protected].