Neighborhood Stressors Produce High Levels of Testosterone in Pregnant Women

Pregnant women living in blighted neighborhoods with high levels of known stressors have higher levels of testosterone – the primary sex hormone in males — which disrupt hormone regulation and may lead to life-threatening complications during and after childbirth, according to a new study by researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Researchers analyzed data from 262 pregnant women who completed a questionnaire about their neighborhoods and underwent blood tests that measured sex hormones such as testosterone in each trimester. The researchers found that women living in neighborhoods with stressors such as vacant lots, derelict buildings, and other signs of disorder had significantly higher levels of testosterone nearly 40 percent higher by the third trimester of pregnancy than women living in well-ordered neighborhoods.

“Previous research has shown that exposure to neighborhood stressors is associated with preterm birth, low birth weight, and other complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and stillbirth,” said Zorimar Rivera Núñez, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Rutgers School of Public Health and a senior author of the study.

“The purpose of this study was to look at possible mechanisms between neighborhood stressors and pregnancy health, and we looked at sex steroid hormones because they’re critically important for both fetal development and maternal health,” Dr. Rivera-Núñez said.

In addition to the potential physical health risks for pregnant people and their babies, neighborhood stress also can harm maternal mental health, previous studies show. Pregnant people living in stressful neighborhoods are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. These mental health problems also can hurt pregnancy outcomes.

Dr. Rivera-Núñez is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, where she majored in microbiology. She earned a Ph.D. in environmental health sciences from the University of Michigan.

The full study, “Associations Between Neighborhood Stress and Maternal Sex Steroid Hormones in Pregnancy,” was published on the website of the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


RSSComments (0)

Leave a Reply