Association between plasma leptin and cesarean section after induction of labor: a case control study

Whitney Cowman, Sabrina M. Scroggins, Wendy S. Hamilton, Alexandra E. Karras, Noelle C. Bowdler, Eric J. Devor, Mark K. Santillan, Donna A. Santillan

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3 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Obesity in pregnancy is common, with more than 50% of pregnant women being overweight or obese. Obesity has been identified as an independent predictor of dysfunctional labor and is associated with increased risk of failed induction of labor resulting in cesarean section. Leptin, an adipokine, is secreted from adipose tissue under the control of the obesity gene. Concentrations of leptin increase with increasing percent body fat due to elevated leptin production from the adipose tissue of obese individuals. Interestingly, the placenta is also a major source of leptin production during pregnancy. Leptin has regulatory effects on neuronal tissue, vascular smooth muscle, and nonvascular smooth muscle systems. It has also been demonstrated that leptin has an inhibitory effect on myometrial contractility with both intensity and frequency of contractions decreased. These findings suggest that leptin may play an important role in dysfunctional labor and be associated with the outcome of induction of labor at term. Our aim is to determine whether maternal plasma leptin concentration is indicative of the outcome of induction of labor at term. We hypothesize that elevated maternal plasma leptin levels are associated with a failed term induction of labor resulting in a cesarean delivery.

METHODS: In this case-control study, leptin was measured in 3rd trimester plasma samples. To analyze labor outcomes, 174 women were selected based on having undergone an induction of labor (IOL), (115 women with successful IOL and 59 women with a failed IOL). Plasma samples and clinical information were obtained from the UI Maternal Fetal Tissue Bank (IRB# 200910784). Maternal plasma leptin and total protein concentrations were measured using commercially available assays. Bivariate analyses and logistic regression models were constructed using regression identified clinically significant confounding variables. All variables were tested at significance level of 0.05.

RESULTS: Women with failed IOL had higher maternal plasma leptin values (0.5 vs 0.3 pg, P = 0.01). These women were more likely to have obesity (mean BMI 32 vs 27 kg/m 2, P = 0.0002) as well as require multiple induction methods (93% vs 73%, p = 0.008). Logistic regression showed Bishop score (OR 1.5, p < 0.001), BMI (OR 0.92, P < 0.001), preeclampsia (OR 0.12, P = 0.010), use of multiple methods of induction (OR 0.22, P = 0.008) and leptin (OR 0.42, P = 0.017) were significantly associated with IOL outcome. Specifically, after controlling for BMI, Bishop Score, and preeclampsia, leptin was still predictive of a failed IOL with an odds ratio of 0.47 (P = 0.046). Finally, using leptin as a predictor for fetal outcomes, leptin was also associated with of fetal intolerance of labor, with an odds ratio of 2.3 (P = 0.027). This association remained but failed to meet statistical significance when controlling for successful (IOL) (OR 1.5, P = 0.50).

CONCLUSIONS: Maternal plasma leptin may be a useful tool for determining which women are likely to have a failed induction of labor and for counseling women about undertaking an induction of labor versus proceeding with cesarean delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number29
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Iowa. Contents are solely the responsibility of the authors.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Cesarean section
  • Fetal intolerance of labor
  • Induction of labor
  • Leptin
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Vaginal delivery
  • Tissue Banks
  • Leptin/blood
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Cesarean Section/statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Labor, Induced
  • Obesity, Maternal/blood
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Odds Ratio

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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