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

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)588-591
Number of pages4
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Cortisol
  • HPA axis
  • Male vulnerability
  • Pregnancy
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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