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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Longitudinal study of progestins, mineralocorticoids, and glucocorticoids throughout human pregnancy.

The maternal adrenal cortex seems to be involved in the adaptation to pregnancy. To study in detail adrenocortical secretion during pregnancy, we measured plasma aldosterone, corticosterone, 11-deoxycorticosterone, progesterone, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, 11-deoxycortisol, cortisol, and cortisone simultaneously by RIA after extraction and automated Sephadex LH-20 chromatography of 10 normal pregnant women longitudinally throughout pregnancy at weeks 8-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-32, and 38 as well as at the time of admission to the delivery room. The mean plasma progesterone and 17-hydroxy-progesterone concentrations increased from 37.2 +/- 6.5 (+/- SE) and 8.2 +/- 1.0 nmol/L, respectively, in early gestation to maximum levels of 138.0 +/- 25.7 and 22.8 +/- 2.2 nmol/L at week 38 (P less than 0.01). Plasma glucocorticoid levels rose 2- to 3-fold (P less than 0.01) from weeks 8-10 (corticosterone, 18.5 +/- 5.4; 11-deoxycortisol, 1.9 +/- 0.2; cortisone, 24.2 +/- 4.2; cortisol, 195.5 +/- 37.6 nmol/L) to week 38 (corticosterone, 42.9 +/- 11.2; 11-deoxycortisol, 4.6 +/- 0.5; cortisone, 71.5 +/- 13.6; cortisol, 420 +/- 63 nmol/L). Similarly, plasma mineralocorticoid levels increased 5- to 7-fold (P less than 0.01) from weeks 8-10 (11-deoxycorticosterone, 0.69 +/- 0.12; aldosterone, 0.41 +/- 0.08 nmol/L) to maximum levels at week 38 (5.3 +/- 0.9 and 2.1 +/- 0.3 nmol/L, respectively). At the time of admission to the delivery room, plasma 11-deoxycortisol, corticosterone, and cortisol concentrations were higher (P less than 0.02) than at 38 weeks, but plasma progestin and mineralocorticoid concentrations were not. We conclude that the source of the elevated maternal corticosteroid levels in pregnancy in addition to the estrogen-mediated rise in corticosteroid-binding globulin is the maternal adrenal cortex itself. The peak glucocorticoid levels at admission to the delivery room reflect increased maternal and fetal stress with the onset of labor.[1]


  1. Longitudinal study of progestins, mineralocorticoids, and glucocorticoids throughout human pregnancy. Dörr, H.G., Heller, A., Versmold, H.T., Sippell, W.G., Herrmann, M., Bidlingmaier, F., Knorr, D. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. (1989) [Pubmed]
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