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

55 Scopus citations


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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