The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday: changes in stress axis function across women's reproductive transitions


1Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, 2Human Evolutionary Studies Program, Simon Fraser University, 3Department of Statistics, University of Waterloo

Friday 10:30-10:45, Galleria South Add to calendar

The negative effects of stress on health are well recognized, yet most research on women’s stress does not adequately account for the longitudinal changes in stress physiology as women transition between reproductive phases. We initiated an investigation of said changes in a population of healthy women from rural Guatemala. We examined one of those understudied transitions: from post-partum amenorrhea (PA) to the resumption of regular ovarian cyclicity (ROC). We evaluated stress (free cortisol), reproductive (estrone glucuronide, pregnandiol glucuronide, follicle stimulating hormone beta-subunit and human chorionic gonadotropin beta-subunit) and metabolic energy (adiponectin and c-peptide) hormone levels in urine specimens collected from 22 women as they recovered their fertility after giving birth. Using linear mixed models we were able to distinguish clear variation in hormone profiles across the PA-ROC transition (p<0.05). Once ROC resumed, day of the menstrual cycle did not predict cortisol levels if analyses were restricted to ±14 days around the day of ovulation. However, when analyses were extended beyond this 28-day-period, then day of the menstrual cycle became a significant predictor of cortisol levels. We will use this information to develop a model of the relationship between stress and reproductive biology during this and other transitions. Our goal is to provide a first account of longitudinal changes in the stress axis, its response to energetic, health and psychosocial challenges and its effects on reproductive axis functioning.

Financial support for the conduct of the research and preparation of the article was provided by a CIHR IGH Operating Grant (CIHR #106705) and a Simon Fraser University President’s Start-up Grant to PAN.

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