Diurnal Cortisol Patterns and Dexamethasone Suppression Test Responses in Healthy Young Adults Born Preterm at Very Low Birth Weight.PLoS One. 2016; 11(9):e0162650.Plos
Early life stress, such as painful and stressful procedures during neonatal intensive care after preterm birth, can permanently affect physiological, hormonal and neurobiological systems. This may contribute to altered programming of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA) and provoke changes in HPAA function with long-term health impacts. Previous studies suggest a lower HPAA response to stress in young adults born preterm compared with controls born at term. We assessed whether these differences in HPAA stress responsiveness are reflected in everyday life HPAA functioning, i.e. in diurnal salivary cortisol patterns, and reactivity to a low-dose dexamethasone suppression test (DST), in unimpaired young adults born preterm at very low birth weight (VLBW; <1500 g).
The participants were recruited from the Helsinki Study of Very Low Birth Weight Adults cohort study. At mean age 23.3 years (2.1 SD), 49 VLBW and 36 controls born at term participated in the study. For cortisol analyzes, saliva samples were collected on two consecutive days at 0, 15, 30 and 60 min after wake-up, at 12:00 h, 17:00 h and 22:00 h. After the last salivary sample of the first study day the participants were instructed to take a 0.5 mg dexamethasone tablet.
With mixed-effects model no difference was seen in overall diurnal salivary cortisol between VLBW and control groups [13.9% (95% CI: -11.6, 47.0), P = 0.31]. Salivary cortisol increased similarly after awakening in both VLBW and control participants [mean difference -2.9% (29.2, 33.0), P = 0.85]. Also reactivity to the low-dose DST (awakening cortisol ratio day2/day1) was similar between VLBW and control groups [-1.1% (-53.5, 103.8), P = 0.97)].
Diurnal cortisol patterns and reactivity to a low-dose DST in young adulthood were not associated with preterm birth.