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Dev Psychobiol. 2009 Sep;51(6):505-12. doi: 10.1002/dev.20389.

Fetal motor activity and maternal cortisol.

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  • 1Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


The contemporaneous association between maternal salivary cortisol and fetal motor activity was examined at 32 and 36 weeks gestation. Higher maternal cortisol was positively associated with the amplitude of fetal motor activity at 32 weeks, r(48) = .39, p < .01, and 36 weeks, r(77) = .27, p < .05, and the amount of time fetuses spent moving at 32 weeks during the 50 min observation period, r(48) = 33, p < .05. Observation of periods of unusually intense fetal motor activity were more common in fetuses of women with higher cortisol, Mann-Whitney U = 58.5. There were no sex differences in fetal motor activity, but the associations between maternal cortisol and fetal motor amplitude and overall movement were significantly stronger for male than female fetuses.

(c) 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 51: 505-512, 2009.

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