Latent trait cortisol (LTC) during pregnancy: Composition, continuity, change, and concomitants

Individual differences in the activity of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis are often operationalized using summary measures of cortisol that are taken to represent stable individual differences. Here we extend our understanding of a novel latent variable approach to latent trait cortisol (LTC) as a measure of trait-like HPA axis function during pregnancy. Pregnant women (n=380) prospectively collected 8 diurnal saliva samples (4 samples/day, 2 days) within each trimester. Saliva was assayed for cortisol. Confirmatory factor analyses were used to fit LTC models to early morning and daytime cortisol. For individual trimester data, only the daytime LTC models had adequate fit. These daytime LTC models were strongly correlated between trimesters and stable over pregnancy. Daytime LTC was unrelated to the cortisol awakening response and the daytime slope but strongly correlated with the area under the curve from ground. The findings support the validity of LTC as a measure of cortisol during pregnancy and suggest that it is not affected by pregnancy-related changes in HPA axis function.
Author's accepted manuscript deposited according to Elsevier sharing policies November 18th, 2015
Latent trait cortisol, Pregnancy, Stability, Cortisol awakening response, Area under the curve, Daytime slope
Giesbrecht, G.F., Bryce, C., Letourneau, N., & Granger, D. (2015). Latent trait cortisol (LTC) during pregnancy: Composition, continuity, change, and concomitants. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 62 (August), 149-158.