Women who are married or living as married have higher salivary estradiol and progesterone than unmarried women

Emily S. Barrett, Van Tran, Sally W. Thurston, Hanne Frydenberg, Susan F. Lipson, Inger Thune, Peter T. Ellison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives: Extensive research has demonstrated that marriage and parenting are associated with lower testosterone levels in men, however, very little is known about associations with hormone concentrations in women. Two studies have found lower testosterone in relation to pair-bonding and motherhood in women, with several others suggesting that estradiol levels are lower among parous women than nulliparous women. Here, we examine estradiol and progesterone concentrations in relation to marriage and motherhood in naturally cycling, reproductive age women. Methods: In 185 Norwegian women, estradiol and progesterone concentrations were assayed from waking saliva samples collected daily over the course of a menstrual cycle. Cycles were aligned on day 0, the day of ovulation. Mean periovulatory estradiol (days -7 to +6) and luteal progesterone (day +2 to +10) indices were calculated. Marital status and motherhood (including age of youngest child) were reported in baseline questionnaires. Multivariable linear regression models were used to examine associations between ovarian hormones, marital status, and motherhood. Results: Women who were married or living as married had higher estradiol than unmarried women (β=0.19; 95% CI: 0.02, 0.36) and higher luteal progesterone as well (β=0.19; 95% CI: -0.01, 0.39). There were no notable differences in hormone levels in relationship to motherhood status. Conclusions: Our results indicate that ovarian steroid hormones may be higher among women who are married or living as married, and suggest several possible explanations, however, additional research is needed to elucidate any causal relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-507
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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