The association between maternal stress and glucocorticoid rhythmicity in human milk

Michelle Romijn*, Luca J.L. van Tilburg, Jonneke J. Hollanders, Bibian van der Voorn, Paul de Goede, Koert M. Dolman, Annemieke C. Heijboer, Birit F.P. Broekman, Joost Rotteveel, Martijn J.J. Finken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Chronic stress is often accompanied by alterations in the diurnal rhythm of hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal activity. However, there are limited data on the diurnal rhythmicity of breast milk glucocorticoids (GCs) among women with psychological distress. We compared mothers who sought consultation at an expertise center for pregnant women with an increased risk of psychological distress with control mothers for GC diurnal rhythmicity in milk and saliva obtained at the same time. Methods: We included 19 mothers who sought consultation at the psychiatry–obstetric–pediatric (POP) outpatient clinic and 44 control mothers. One month postpartum, mothers collected on average eight paired milk and saliva samples during a 24 h period. GC levels were measured using liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry. GC rhythmicity parameters were determined with specialized software. Results: For both milk and saliva, no group differences regarding GC rhythms were found. Milk cortisol area under the curve with respect to the ground was lower in the POP group than in the control group (p = 0.02). GC levels in human milk and saliva were highly correlated within each group (p < 0.001). Conclusion: Although there were no differences between groups in GC rhythmicity, the total amount of milk cortisol was lower in the POP group. Long-term follow-up is needed to address the impact of vertical transmission of breast milk GCs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1608
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


Dive into the research topics of 'The association between maternal stress and glucocorticoid rhythmicity in human milk'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this