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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011 May;36(4):588-91. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2010.09.005.

Maternal salivary cortisol differs by fetal sex during the second half of pregnancy.

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Department of Population, Family & Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe St., W1033, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Maternal salivary cortisol was measured at weekly intervals from 24 to 38 weeks gestation. The total sample consisted of 120 women enrolled in staggered intervals in such a way as to generate weekly measures of salivary cortisol during the latter half of pregnancy. Hierarchical linear modeling revealed the expected increase in unbound maternal cortisol during this period, with a slight deceleration in rate of increase at 33 weeks gestation. Women carrying male fetuses had higher levels of salivary cortisol initially as compared to women carrying female fetuses; at 30 weeks gestation there was cross-over such that higher maternal cortisol was observed in women carrying female fetuses beyond this time and through term. Results highlight the importance of considering fetal sex as a moderator of contemporaneous and predictive associations between maternal cortisol and prenatal or postnatal development.

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