Low serum estradiol and high serum progesterone concentrations characterize hypertensive pregnancies at high altitude.
Journal of the Society for Gynecologic Investigation
OBJECTIVE: Intrauterine growth retardation and preeclampsia are more common at high than at low altitude. Because altered hormonal profiles have been linked with these disorders, we asked whether placental steroid hormone concentrations were altered during pregnancy at high altitude.
METHODS: We measured progesterone, unconjugated estradiol, and estriol (by radioimmunoassay) at weeks 20, 30, and 36 of pregnancy in 18 women at low altitude (1600 m) and 40 women at high altitude (3100 m).
RESULTS: Women at 3100 m compared with 1600 m had lower serum estradiol concentrations at week 36 of pregnancy, and lower estriol and higher progesterone concentrations throughout pregnancy. As a result, the progesterone/estradiol ratio was greater in the high- versus the low-altitude women. Estradiol fell between weeks 30 and 36 in women who developed transient hypertension or preeclampsia. The fall in estradiol was accompanied by a marked increase in progesterone concentrations among the preeclamptic women. At 3100 m, estradiol correlated negatively (r = -0.37, P < .05) and progesterone positively (r = 0.46, P < .05) with mean arterial pressure at week 36 of pregnancy.
CONCLUSIONS: We speculate that reduced placental oxygen pressure (PO2) at high altitude may decrease placental aromatase activity and thereby lower estradiol and estriol concentrations. The factor(s) responsible for the rise in progesterone is unknown. Possibly, high progesterone relative to estradiol concentrations contributes to the development of preeclampsia at high altitude.
Adult, Altitude, Estradiol, Estriol, Female, Fetal Growth Retardation, Humans, Placenta, Pre-Eclampsia, Pregnancy, Progesterone
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