Free testosterone levels in umbilical-cord blood predict infant head circumference in females

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2010 Mar;52(3):e73-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2009.03546.x. Epub 2010 Feb 4.


Aim: Fetal androgens influence fetal growth as well as postnatal neurocognitive ability. However, to our knowledge, no published study has prospectively examined the impact of early-life androgens on infant brain growth. We report the association between circulating fetal androgen levels, measured from umbilical-cord blood at birth, and a proxy measure of brain growth: head circumference.

Method: Participants were 82 unselected female infants from a large representative birth cohort (mean gestational age 39.4 wks, SD 1.7). Umbilical-cord blood was obtained at birth and analysed for androgen concentrations (total testosterone, androstenedione, dehyrdroepiandrosterone, and its sulphated metabolite). Head circumference and two other measures of growth - weight (mean 3311.4 g, SD 461.3) and length - were measured within 3 days of birth and again at approximately 1 year of age (mean age 13.1 mo, SD 1.1).

Results: Multivariate linear regressions found an inverse association between levels of free testosterone and growth in head circumference (correlation=-.24), even when adjusting for sociodemographic/obstetric covariates and head size at birth. Growth in weight and length could not be predicted by free testosterone concentration.

Interpretation: This is the first report of an association between prenatal androgen levels and postnatal growth in head circumference. These findings suggest that early-life androgens may impact brain development during infancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Albumins / metabolism
  • Androstenedione / analysis*
  • Androstenedione / metabolism
  • Anthropometry*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / analysis*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry*
  • Head / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies


  • Albumins
  • Androstenedione
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone