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The progesterone level, leukocyte count and disgust sensitivity across the menstrual cycle

Żelaźniewicz, Agnieszka, Borkowska, Barbara, Nowak, Judyta, Pawłowski, Bogusław
Physiology & behavior 2016 v.161 pp. 60-65
animals, disease control, immune response, immunocompetence, immunosuppression, leukocyte count, leukocytes, menstruation, pathogens, progesterone, women
According to the compensatory prophylaxis hypothesis, women in the luteal phase, characterized by a high progesterone level, which suppresses various mechanisms of immune response, should exhibit higher disgust sensitivity, compared to the follicular phase. In this study we test the hypothesis on the compensatory role of disgust sensitivity at the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, when immune functions are expected to change due to a rise in progesterone level.Disgust sensitivity, progesterone level (P) and white blood cell count (WBC), a general marker of immunocompetence, were measured in 30 healthy women of reproductive age. Disgust sensitivity was evaluated with: 1) Disgust Scale Revised (DS-R) containing three subscales: Core Disgust, Animal Reminder and Contamination Disgust, 2) Pathogen Disgust and Moral Disgust domains of the Three-Domain Disgust Scale. Measurements were conducted twice - in menstruation (the lowest P) and in the mid-luteal phase (the highest P). The results were analyzed longitudinally and using cross-sectional comparisons.Progesterone level, WBC count, and the level of disgust sensitivity in Animal Domain were higher in the mid-luteal phase comparing to menstruation. The level of disgust sensitivity (DS-R score, Animal, Contamination, Pathogen Disgust) correlated only with P (not WBC) and only in the mid-luteal phase (not in menstruation) in between-subjects comparisons.On the base of these results, we hypothesize that the level of disgust sensitivity in the whole menstrual cycle of a woman is “adjusted” to the luteal phase with the highest P level i.e. when immunosuppression is the greatest.