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Eur J Epidemiol. 2014 May;29(5):343-51. doi: 10.1007/s10654-014-9914-3. Epub 2014 May 22.

Maternal and cord blood hormones in relation to birth size.

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Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA, 02115, USA,


Birth size has been associated with adult life diseases, but the endocrine factors that are likely involved are not established. We evaluated the associations of maternal and cord blood hormones with birth size in normal pregnancies, and examined possible effect modification by maternal height, on the basis of prior suggestive evidence. In a prospective study of normal singleton pregnancies in Boston, USA and Shanghai, China, maternal hormone levels at the 27th gestational week were available for 225 pregnancies in Boston and 281 in Shanghai and cord blood measurements for 92 pregnancies in Boston and 110 in Shanghai. Pearson partial correlation coefficients of log-transformed hormone levels with birth weight and length were calculated. Overall, positive correlations with birth weight were found for maternal estriol (r = 0.19; p < 0.001) and progesterone (r = 0.15; p < 0.001) and these associations were more evident among taller mothers. There was an inverse association of cord blood progesterone (r = -0.16; p < 0.03) with birth weight. In Boston, cord blood IGF-1 was positively associated with birth weight (r = 0.22; p < 0.04) and length (r = 0.25; p < 0.02), particularly among taller mothers (r = 0.43 and 0.38, respectively; p < 0.02), whereas among taller mothers in Shanghai the associations of IGF-2 with birth size appeared to be at least as strong as those of IGF-1. In conclusion, maternal estriol and progesterone, and cord blood IGF-1 were positively correlated with birth size. All correlations tended to be more pronounced among offspring of taller mothers. Among taller mothers in Shanghai, IGF-2 appeared to be at least as strongly associated with birth size as IGF-1.

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