Few studies have examined individual differences in stress reactivity during pregnancy. The current study examined whether cortisol responses to a laboratory stressor (Trier Social Stress Test; TSST) significantly differed within an ethnically diverse sample of 34 pregnant women (38% Latina, 29% African American) identified to be at low (n = 17; i.e., low depressive symptoms) versus high risk for depression (n = 17; i.e., past history of depression and/or high depressive symptoms). Women at high depression risk, particularly those with a past history of depression, showed greater cortisol responses to the TSST than women at low depression risk, controlling for gestational age, parity, and education (p = 0.03). Moreover, African American women, particularly those at high depression risk, showed blunted cortisol responses to the TSST compared to non-African American women (p = 0.02). Our results highlight risk factors for depression during pregnancy and have strong implications for reducing health disparities in this population.
Keywords: Cortisol; Depression; Ethnicity; Pregnancy; Trier Social Stress Test.
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