The purpose of this study was to determine whether maternal mental and physical health is associated with maternal testosterone and cortisol levels, parenting of very low birth weight infants, physical exercise, and White vs non-White race. A total of 40 mothers of very low birth weight infants were recruited from a neonatal intensive care unit at a University Hospital in the Southeast United States. Data were collected through a review of medical records, standardized questionnaires, and biochemical measurement. Maternal mental and physical health status using questionnaires as well as maternal testosterone and cortisol levels using an enzyme immunoassay were measured four times (birth, 40 weeks postmenstrual age [PMA], and 6 and 12 months [age of infant, corrected age]). General linear models showed that higher testosterone levels were associated with greater depressive symptoms, stress, and poorer physical health at 40 weeks PMA, and at 6 and 12 months. High cortisol levels were associated with greater anxiety at 40 weeks PMA; however, with better mental and physical health at 40 weeks PMA, and 6 and 12 months. Physical activity was associated with lower maternal perceived stress at 12 months. Maternal health did not differ by race, except anxiety, which was higher in White than non-White mothers after birth. As very low birth weight infants grew up, maternal physical health improved but mental health deteriorated. Testosterone and cortisol levels were found to be positively correlated in women but testosterone was more predictive of maternal mental and physical health than cortisol. Indeed testosterone consistently showed its associations with maternal health. Maternal stress might be improved through regular physical exercise.
Cho, J., Su, X., Phyllips, V., & Holditch-Davis, D. (2016). Associations between maternal hormonal biomarkers and maternal mental and physical health of very low birth weight infants. Asian/Pacific Island Nursing Journal, 1(4), 149-161. https://doi.org/10.9741/23736658.1047