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Study indicates high testosterone levels in mother leads to smaller babies and possible diseases in later life

04.04.2006


Small birth size has been shown to have adverse effects on the offspring in later life, including increased risks of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions. Now work presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology in Glasgow shows that women with a high testosterone level in pregnancy will produce smaller babies.



A group led by Dr Sven M. Carlsen at the University of Trondheim measured levels of four endogenous hormones at 17 and 33 weeks in 147 pregnant women. They corrected the figures for such factors as maternal height, mothers BMI, smoking, and then measured the body weight and length of the babies at birth

They found that having a higher testosterone level in pregnancy is associated with both a lower birth weight, and a shorter body length.


Dr Carlsen said

"Until now, it has been thought that the cause of this variation in birth size and the subsequent effects in later life were simply due to variation in nutrition. But our work indicates that the mechanism may be poor nutrition causing hormonal changes which feed through to the foetus. We need to confirm this".

The difference testosterone variation makes is significant; it translates into a variation comparable with the impact that a factor such as maternal smoking has on birth weight. What it means is that these babies will have a greater chance of diseases such as heart disease and hypertension in later life. At this stage, we don’t know if there’s anything we can do about this, but confirming the mechanism causing the variation would be an important first stage.

Jo Thurston | alfa
Further information:
http://www.euro-endo.org/ece2006/welcome.html

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