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Keywords:

  • cortisol;
  • hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis;
  • posttraumatic stress

Abstract

Previous studies have found that mothers of very preterm infants often report symptoms of posttraumatic stress, which has been related to cortisol dysregulation. However, the exact nature of this association is not clear and can be different regarding the predominance of some specific symptoms of posttraumatic stress, as suggested by a recent model. The objective of the present study is to assess the association between diurnal salivary cortisol and posttraumatic stress symptoms in mothers of very preterm infants. Seventy-four mothers of very preterm infants were included in the study. Mothers' cortisol regulation and posttraumatic stress symptoms were evaluated 12 months after child theoretical term (40 weeks of gestation). Results showed an association between higher re-experiencing symptoms and flatter cortisol slopes. These results may help to understand differences found in studies assessing the relation between severity of posttraumatic stress and cortisol levels, by supporting the symptoms' theory. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.