Adrenocortical function and dysfunction in the fetus and neonate

Semin Neonatol. 2004 Feb;9(1):13-21. doi: 10.1016/j.siny.2003.08.003.


Under normal circumstances, the fetus is exposed to very low concentrations of cortisol until late in gestation. Perturbations of the intra-uterine environment resulting in fetal exposure to increased cortisol may have consequences not only in infancy, but also into adult life. In the postnatal period, developmental immaturity and/or the effects of critical illness on adrenal function may result in insufficient cortisol production to maintain homeostasis in the face of acute stress or illness, a situation that has been labelled 'relative adrenal insufficiency' in other acutely ill populations. The definition of inadequate adrenal function in the newborn and its possible relationship to adverse outcomes in both premature and term infants are only beginning to be characterized.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Diseases / embryology*
  • Adrenal Gland Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Adrenal Glands / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fetus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn / physiology*
  • Infant, Premature / physiology
  • Pregnancy