Fetal motor activity and maternal cortisol

Janet A. DiPietro, Katie T. Kivlighan, Kathleen A. Costigan, Mark L. Laudenslager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-512
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2009


  • Cortisol
  • Fetal motor activity
  • Fetus
  • Maternal stress/anxiety
  • Pregnancy
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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