AMH, Androgens, and Other Updates About the Causes of PCOS

Several major news outlets posted recently that high AMH (Anti-Müllerian hormone) during pregnancy is what causes PCOS. 
Needless to say, I’ve received a *lot* of questions about this, mainly because years ago, I wrote about the increased levels of AMH in women with PCOS. It’s a hormone level I test in my patients consistently, and the topic as a whole is really interesting to me.

What the study found (basically) is that women with PCOS have higher levels of AMH in pregnancy, and administering AMH injections to pregnant mice often induces PCOS in their offspring. 

The study also found that administering a commonly used IVF drug (cetrotelex) to the pregnant animals – as well as later in life – could reverse these effects.

Many women celebrated when these news outlets asserted that finally, the cause of (and cure for) PCOS has been found. Of course they did: it’s exciting to read a headline like this, especially when so many women struggle with the condition! 

That said, after reading the study in its entirety, it’s clear that what the media reported is not actually what the researchers concluded… as is so often the case.

The findings shared in the study are very exciting overall, but before we get led down the rabbit hole of headlines, let’s take a look at the facts.

What We Know About PCOS and Prenatal Hormone Exposure:

It has already been established that giving testosterone to pregnant animals causes PCOS in their offspring. We are also aware that exposing fetuses to testosterone in the womb can permanently impact the homone-controlling GnRH neurons in their brains. This can cause irregular ovulation when the animals reach puberty. Furthermore, this isn’t just about exposing unborn babies to actual hormones like testosterone. It has also been found that a single exposure to bisphenol A (found in plastics) and PCE (an industrial pollutant) can induce PCOS in offspring for generations. These chemicals have endocrine disruption effects with clear estrogen-like actions on the developing baby’s brain and reproductive organs. Overall one thing is clear – we are accumulating a LOT of evidence showing that the hormonal environment during pregnancy has long-term and often permanent effects on the hormonal systems of babies, and it seems that AMH is no different. To read more about this study, its findings, and what those findings actually mean for women with PCOS, read the full blog post on here.