Pregnancy and lactation involve adaptations in immune regulation, but little is known about cross-cultural variation in inflammatory changes during pregnancy or lactation. Here we report concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP) in a large cross-sectional sample of healthy Filipino women who vary in parity, gestational, and lactational status, and who come from a population previously described as having low CRP.
Fasting plasma CRP was measured among female participants (ages 20.8–22.4 years) in the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (n = 822).
Median CRP was 0.2 mg/l in nulliparous women and peaked at 2.0 mg/l in women in their 3rd trimester of pregnancy. Parous but post-partum women had higher CRP compared to nulliparous women, which was largely explained by body composition differences as reflected in waist circumference and skinfold measures. Among post-partum women with infants, CRP was similar in women who were currently breastfeeding compared to those who were not.
At Cebu, women late in gestation have 10-fold higher C-reactive protein compared to nulliparous women, with no evidence that lactation is inflammatory. These population-based findings are similar with findings from prior clinic-based studies and are consistent with the maternal immunological adaptations initiated during pregnancy. The tendency of human females to spend more time than females of other great apes in gestation rather than lactation suggests that the human life history strategy involved increased time spent by reproductively aged females in a pro-inflammatory state. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2013. © 2012Wiley Periodicals, Inc.