The purpose of this investigation was to examine: (1) the relations among cortisol reactivity (short term changes in cortisol concentration) and anxiety and depression symptoms in adolescent during pregnancy and early postpartum, and (2) cortisol reactivity and psychosocial variables as predictors of anxiety and depression symptoms in pregnancy and early postpartum. Cortisol reactivity, an index of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal activity, was hypothesized to be a vulnerability factor for poor physical and mental health outcomes in adolescents. Forty adolescents aged 14 to 19 years (M = 17.3, SD = 1.3) were enrolled in the study and were seen at <20 weeks gestation (T1), 34-36 weeks gestation (T2), and 2-3 weeks postpartum (T3). Blood was drawn for cortisol at T1 and T3. Psychological assessments of anxiety and depression symptoms, life optimism, and self-worth were administered at T1, T2, and T3. There were significant correlations among cortisol reactivity and anxiety and depression symptoms at T1 and T3, but the correlations were the reverse of the hypothesized direction. Pregnant adolescents with increased cortisol reactivity and anxiety and depression symptoms at T1 and T3, but the correlations were the reverse of the hypothesized direction. Pregnant adolescents with increased cortisol reactivity (cortisol concentrations that increased across a 40-min period) had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression than other adolescents. Longitudinal analyses showed that anxiety and depression symptoms at T1 were a stronger predictor of postpartum anxiety and depression than was cortisol reactivity, life optimism, self-worth, or age at pregnancy.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry