Children born to mothers with a hormonal imbalance run a much higher risk of developing autism, according to a new study released by Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet on Tuesday. The findings, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, link an imbalance called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. ASD represents a range of neurodevelopmental disorders in children. “We found that a maternal diagnosis of PCOS increased the risk of ASD in the offspring by 59 percent”, said Kyriaki Kosidou, lead researcher at Karolinska’s Department of Public Health Sciences. The causes are not entirely clear, but evidence suggests that exposure to certain sex hormones early in life - from mothers with PCOS who are producing excessive amounts of androgens - can play a role in the development of autism in children.