Preterm birth and infant diurnal cortisol regulation
Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal & Neonatal
BMJ Publishing Group
School of Nursing and Midwifery / Centre for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Services Research
Theirworld MRC Centre for Reproductive Health British Heart Foundation
Background Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis adaptation is a potential mechanism linking early life exposures with later adverse health. This study tested the hypothesis that preterm birth is associated with adaptation of diurnal cortisol regulation across infancy. Methods A secondary analysis was conducted of saliva cortisol measured morning, midday and evening, monthly, across infancy, as part of a birth cohort conducted in Linköping, Sweden. Diurnal cortisol regulation of infants born extremely preterm (n=24), very preterm (n=27) and at term (n=130) were compared across infancy through random coefficients regression models. Results Compared with infants born at term, infants born extremely preterm (−17.2%, 95% CI: −30.7 to −1.2), but not very preterm (1.7%, 95% CI: −14.1 to 20.4), had a flattened diurnal slope across infancy. Conclusions Extremely preterm birth is associated with a flattened diurnal slope in infancy. This pattern of cortisol regulation could contribute to adverse metabolic and neurodevelopmental phenotypes observed in this population.