Pregnant women living in deprived neighborhoods with high levels of known stressors have higher levels of testosterone – the main sex hormone in men – which disrupt hormonal regulation and can lead to life-threatening complications during and after pregnancy. childbirth, according to a Rutgers study.
“Previous research has shown that exposure to neighborhood stressors is associated with premature birth, low birth weight, and other complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and stillbirth,” a said Zorimar Rivera Núñez, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Rutgers School of Public Health and a lead author of the study published in BMC Pregnancy and childbirth.
“The goal of this study was to examine possible mechanisms between neighborhood stressors and pregnancy health, and we examined sex steroid hormones because they are critically important for fetal development and pregnancy. maternal health,” Rivera-Núñez said.
Researchers analyzed data from 262 pregnant women who completed a neighborhood questionnaire and underwent blood tests measuring sex hormones such as testosterone each trimester.
Researchers found that women living in neighborhoods with stressors such as vacant lots, abandoned buildings, and other signs of disorder had significantly higher testosterone levels. – almost 40 percent higher in the third trimester of pregnancy – than women living in well-ordered neighborhoods.
Testosterone is known to play a role in various pregnancy-related processes, including sexual differentiation of the brain during early development.
Megan Hansel, first author and doctoral student at the Rutgers School of Public Health, said their findings suggest that interventions aimed at reducing neighborhood stress, such as improving access to green spaces and community resources, could help improve pregnancy outcomes for all pregnant people.
In addition to potential risks to the physical health of pregnant women and their babies, neighborhood stress can also harm a mother’s mental health, previous studies have found. Pregnant people living in stressful neighborhoods are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. These mental health issues can also harm pregnancy outcomes.
Study data comes from the Understanding Pregnancy Signals and Infant Development (UPSIDE) cohort, which collected biospecimens, questionnaires, and medical record data from 262 women living in and around Rochester. Researchers measured maternal serum sex hormones, total testosterone, free testosterone, estrone, estradiol and estriol at each trimester and asked participants about neighborhood stressors. UPSIDE is part of the NIH Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program, the largest study of children’s health in the United States.
The new analysis of UPSIDE data found that 73 percent of women in the cohort reported being exposed to one or more types of neighborhood unrest, while 22 percent reported being exposed to violence.
In adjusted models, neighborhood disorder was associated with higher testosterone levels throughout pregnancy, with the strongest associations observed in the third trimester, where neighborhood disorder was associated with a mean testosterone elevation of 38 percent. The effect was more pronounced in women carrying male than female fetuses.
Exposure to violence was not associated with any hormones.
“The results suggest that stress may alter prenatal testosterone levels, which could explain some of the adverse effects we see when pregnant women live with stressors in their neighborhoods,” Rivera Núñez said. “But more research is needed to prove causation.”
BMC Pregnancy and childbirth
The title of the article
Associations between neighborhood stress and maternal sex steroid hormones during pregnancy
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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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