Maternal and female fetal testosterone levels are associated with maternal age and gestational weight gain

Eur J Endocrinol. 2017 Oct;177(4):379-388. doi: 10.1530/EJE-17-0207. Epub 2017 Jul 13.


Objective: Prenatal androgen exposure has been suggested to play a role in polycystic ovary syndrome. Given the limited information on what maternal characteristics influence maternal testosterone levels, and the even less explored routes by which female fetus androgen exposure would occur, the aim of this study was to investigate the impact of maternal age, BMI, weight gain, depressed mood and aromatase SNPs on testosterone levels in maternal serum and amniotic fluid of female fetuses.

Methods: Blood samples from pregnant women (n = 216) obtained in gestational weeks 35-39, and pre-labor amniotic fluid samples from female fetuses (n = 56), taken at planned Caesarean section or in conjunction with amniotomy for induction of labor, were analyzed. Maternal serum testosterone and amniotic fluid testosterone and cortisol were measured by tandem mass spectrometry.

Results: Multiparity (β = -0.28, P < 0.001), self-rated depression (β = 0.26, P < 0.001) and weight gain (β = 0.18, P < 0.05) were independent explanatory factors for the maternal total testosterone levels. Maternal age (β = -0.34, P < 0.001), weight gain (β = 0.19, P < 0.05) and amniotic fluid cortisol levels (β = 0.44, P < 0.001) were independent explanatory factors of amniotic fluid testosterone in female fetuses, explaining 64.3% of the variability in amniotic fluid testosterone.

Wider implications of the findings: Young maternal age and excessive maternal weight gain may increase the prenatal androgen exposure of female fetuses. Further studies are needed to explore this finding.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amniotic Fluid / metabolism*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / blood
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Fetus / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Age*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / blood
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Testosterone / metabolism*
  • Weight Gain / physiology*


  • Testosterone