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Katelynn Johnson

Final Research Paper

Cortisol levels and very early pregnancy


Loss in humans
One of the common risk factors for spontaneous abortion is maternal stress. Although for humans there
is little physiological evidence to link these two together. But, this could be from the paucity of research
on maternal stress during the earliest gestational stage. Most of the research done in this field is on
Clinical pregnancy (>6weeks after the last menstrual period). According to this article the majority of
miscarriages occur during the first 3 week after conception (=5 weeks after last menstrual period).
This study focuses on clinical pregnancy during the first 3 weeks after conception. By examining
the correlation between miscarriage and levels of maternal urinary cortisol, they came to see that
pregnancies that increased in maternal cortisol during this period were more likely to result in
spontaneous abortion. With this evidence in links increased levels in this stress marker with a higher risk
of early human loss.
There are many reasons for spontaneous abortions it could be either the mothers or babies
fault. Although this can be an explanation for some it alone is not to blame. Maternal stress is a
potential common cause for at least part of pregnancy losses that are otherwise unexplained. Yet, we
have no physical evidence of this,as if now. According to the studies evidence, most spontaneous
abortion in humans take place during the first 3 weeks after conception. During this time the placentas
structural and functional units are to develop. During this placentation period the embryo depends
greatly on their mother to survive, because of this the embryo is especially vulnerable to any changes to
the mother. To identify the stress on the mother the study used cortisol levels of the mothers during this

sensitive time. The reason why is because cortisol is produced by the adrenal cortex tends to increase as
a result of energetic (toll on the body), immunological (sickness), and psychological (mind) challenges.
One method is the studies of population; they collected date for over 12 months in a
rural Kaqchikel Mayan community in the southwest highlands of Guatemala. They found 1,159
inhabitants lived in this village in 2000. The women who met all five requirements could participate 1.
Not pregnant 2. Cohabitation with husband 3.parity( >1)4. Not using any form of contraception 5. Last
birth > 6 months before the onset of the study. 61 women volunteered all of these women were
breastfeeding previously born children throughout their participation. 61 women, 24 cycled the rest
experienced lactational amenorrhoea throughout. Over this year 16 of 24 cycled, 22 women conceived.
Ten of the women conceived once, and six lost their first but then conceived again
Another study was urinary specimens, hormonal assays, and hormonal profiles. They
first collected urine specimens every other day in the morning, for a total of three times a week. A few
things inferred with the urine samples one was the timing of ovulation because of estrone conjugates to
pregnandiol glucuronide as well as luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormones. Another is
chemical pregnancy inferred when urinary hCG was >0.025ng/ml for at least 3 days. Pregnancy loss was
though to decrease when pregnandiol glucuronide or hCG values declined to follicular levels.
Result of this study was of the 22 observed pregnancies, 9 were carried to term
(successful) and 13 were lost (unsuccessful). The average time of spontaneous abortion was 16 days.
The normal cortisol levels were higher in unsuccessful pregnancies then in successful pregnancies.
Pregnancies that were subjected to increased cortisol were 2.7 time more likely to be unsuccessful then
those not exposed. 90% of the increased cortisol pregnancies resulted in spontaneous abortion, only
33% of the normal cortisol pregnancies were lost.

Some discussions the article brought up were the miscarriages rates. The fetal loss rate
in humans range from 31% to 89% of all conceptions, because of this high miscarriage rate health
scientists describe human reproduction as inefficient and therefore, an Evolutionary paradox. But
evolutionary theorists believe that aborting unhealthy, defective, or otherwise substandard embryos is
profitable for the future.
Another topic was alternative explanations for their results. The first alternative is the early loss
in pregnancy could cause increase in cortisol levels. Any increase in cortisol would be the mother fault
because during the first 3 weeks the embryo cannot produce glucocorticoids. Another alternative could
be human chorionic gonadotrophin can sometime increase in the absence of pregnancy. But, when
combined with a simultaneous raise in cortisol could lead to false results.