TitleMaternal hair cortisol concentrations across pregnancy and the early postpartum period in a Puerto Rican sample.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsHoran, H, Cheyney, M, Torres, EGomez, Eick, G, Bovbjerg, ML, Snodgrass, JJosh
JournalAm J Hum Biol
Date Published01/2022

OBJECTIVE: Hair cortisol is a noninvasive, long-term biomarker of human stress. Strengths and weaknesses of this biomarker as a proxy measure of perinatal stress are not yet well understood. Hair cortisol data were collected from pregnant women in Puerto Rico to investigate maternal cortisol level variance across pregnancy.

METHODS: In 2017, we recruited 86 pregnant women planning to birth at a large urban hospital. We aimed to collect four hair samples from each participant, one in each trimester and one in the postpartum period.

RESULTS: Median cortisol in the first trimester (n = 82) was 5.7 picograms/milligram (pg/mg) (range: 1.0-62.4). In the second, third, and postpartum periods, the medians were 6.8 pg/mg (1.0-69.5), (n = 46), 20.1 pg/mg (5.6-89.0), (n = 30), and 14.1 pg/mg (1.7-39.8), (n = 9), respectively. These medians disguise a 10-fold and 50-fold variability for two participants. Our sample sizes declined sharply when Hurricane Maria caused major disruptions in services and participants' lives.

CONCLUSION: Maternal hair cortisol concentrations were lower in the first and second trimester than the third trimester and early postpartum period. We also observed a wide range of variation in cortisol levels throughout pregnancy and in the postpartum period.

Alternate JournalAm J Hum Biol
PubMed ID35001460
Grant List / / National Science Foundation /
1628643 / / Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant /
Kathryn Ross Award (Department of Anthropology) / / Oregon State University /
Doctoral Fellowship and / / Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund /
Senior Research Award / / Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund /