Maternal psychological well-being and salivary cortisol in late pregnancy and early post-partum

Jing-Yu Cheng, Rita H. Pickler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Maternal cortisol plays an important role in foetal development and is often used to measure stress. In addition to stress, prenatal and post-partum women experience a mix of positive and negative emotions. However, few studies have examined the relationship between cortisol and maternal psychological health or how these relationships change from the prenatal to the post-partum periods. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between maternal cortisol and stress, happiness, and depression components of psychological well-being, in late pregnancy and early post-partum. The study used a repeated measure design with 41 women; 21 women completed all data collections. As expected, maternal salivary cortisol increased from awakening to 30 minutes after awakening during pregnancy. Levels of salivary cortisol were lower at post-partum. Stress, happiness and depression were significantly correlated at both prenatal and post-partum measurements. Prenatal cortisol awakening response was correlated with happiness. Maternal psychological well-being and cortisol did not differ by parity, race or employment. Maternal cortisol could potentially serve as a biochemical marker of maternal psychological well-being. Interventions to decrease maternal stress may promote maternal psychological well-being. Longitudinal studies with larger sample and diverse ethnicities may increase our understanding of the role of cortisol in foetal and maternal health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-224
Number of pages10
JournalStress and Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


  • Cortisol
  • Depression
  • Happiness
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Applied Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Maternal psychological well-being and salivary cortisol in late pregnancy and early post-partum'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this