Concentrations of sex hormones in umbilical-cord blood: their relation to sex and birth order of infants

Child Dev. 1979 Sep;50(3):632-42.


In 3 groups of human newborns, 5 sex hormones were assayed from samples of umbilical-cord blood, and concentrations were analyzed by the sex and birth order of the infants. The 5 hormones assayed were testosterone, androstenedione, estrone, estradiol, and progesterone. Concentrations of testosterone were significantly greater in males than females. The other 4 hormones did not differ significantly by sex. In both sexes, firstborns had significantly more progesterone and estrogens, with progesterone showing the largest birth-order effects. Among male infants, firstborns had higher concentrations of testosterone. The higher concentrations of progesterone in firstborns of both sexes, and of testosterone in firstborn boys, were found not to be due to length of labor, birth weight, or maternal age. However, they were a function of temporal spacing of childbirths. Later borns who were closely spaced in relation to their next-older siblings had lower concentrations of hormones. The effect of temporal separation was greater on male than female infants for each of the 5 hormones studied. The results are discussed in terms of the possible effects of hormone "depletion" on the psychological development of closely spaced later borns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Androstenedione / blood
  • Birth Order*
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Estrone / blood
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / analysis*
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Progesterone / blood
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Sex Factors
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Estrone
  • Testosterone
  • Androstenedione
  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol