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Stress Hormone Cortisol May Triple Risk of Miscarriage
(HealthDay News)
by -- Rick Ansorge
Updated: Feb 23rd 2006

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THURSDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- High levels of the stress hormone cortisol in early pregnancy may nearly triple the risk of miscarriage, according to a study published online Feb. 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Pablo A. Nepomnaschy, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues collected urine three times a week from 61 rural Guatemalan women to check for pregnancy status and cortisol levels. During the study, 22 pregnancies occurred, nine of which were carried to term and 13 of which resulted in spontaneous abortion.

The researchers found that 90 percent of pregnancies in women exposed to high cortisol levels resulted in miscarriage compared to 33 percent of pregnancies in women exposed to normal levels. They determined that such women were 2.7 times more likely to miscarry.

"Evolutionary theorists…propose that aborting unhealthy, defective, or otherwise substandard embryos, or those gestating under 'impoverished reproductive conditions,' can be reproductively advantageous," the authors state. "Our results indicating an association between high cortisol levels and increased risk of miscarriage should be considered within the latter context."

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