Amiel Castro R, Kunovac Kallak T, Sundström Poromaa I, Willebrand M, Lager S, Ehlert U, Skalkidou A
Psychoneuroendocrinology 132 (-) 105361 [2021-10-00; online 2021-07-17]
Women experience different degrees of subjective cognitive changes during pregnancy. The exact mechanism underlying these changes is unknown, although endocrine alterations and genetics may be contributing factors. We investigated whether multiple pregnancy-related hormones were associated with working memory function assessed with the Digit Span Test (DST) in late pregnancy. Moreover, we examined whether the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) genotype, previously related to working memory, was an effect modifier in this association. In this population-based panel study, we recorded psychiatric history, medication use, socio-demographic characteristics, and psychological well-being, gathered blood and saliva samples, and administered the DST at gestational weeks 35-39 (N = 216). We conducted multivariate linear regressions with DST as outcome, with different hormones and COMT genotype, adjusting for covariates including maternal age, BMI, education, depressive symptoms, and parity. We repeated these analyses excluding women with elevated depressive symptoms. Higher DST total scores were associated with increased free estradiol concentrations (B = 0.01, p = 0.03; B = 0.01, p = 0.02) in all participants and in participants without depressive symptoms, respectively, whereas DST forward was positively associated with free estradiol only in women without depressive symptoms (B = 0.01, p = 0.04). Lower total testosterone concentrations (B = -0.03, p = 0.01) enhanced DST backward performance in non-depressed women. Maternal higher education was significantly associated with the DST subscales in all participants. No significant differences emerged when considering the COMT genotype. Our results suggest differential associations of free estradiol and total testosterone levels with working memory function in late pregnancy.