Mechanisms underlying the effects of prenatal psychosocial stress on child outcomes: beyond the HPA axis
To study the effects of reduced uterine blood flow on fetal and placental metabolism, adrenaline has been infused at physiological doses (0.5 microgram/min per kg) into the circulation of the pregnant sheep. This gives a reduction of about one third of uterine blood flow at days 120-143 of pregnancy, but causes no significant change in umbilical blood flow. In contrast to the effects of constricting the uterine artery to reduce blood flow to a similar degree, placental oxygen consumption was reduced and that, together with a large increase in lactate production, indicated the placenta became hypoxic. The fetal blood gas status and hence oxygen consumption was not affected significantly. A consistent arterio-venous difference for glucose across the umbilical or uterine circulations was not detected unless the uterine blood flow was comparatively high. Glucose balance across the uterus showed a close linear relationship with uterine blood flow and more particularly with the supply of glucose to the uterus. There was clear evidence for glucose uptake by the placenta and fetus and also glucose output by both. The latter was more common when uterine blood flow was comparatively low or reduced by adrenaline infusion. The results are consistent with the concept that glucose supply has to be maintained to the placenta even at the expense of fetal stores, although lactate can substitute if there is enhanced output because of fetal hypoxia. They indicate that placental mobilisation of glycogen can lead to a net output of glucose to the mother. The manner of communicating to the fetus changes in placental state that occur during maternal adrenaline infusion is not clear. However towards the end of the 60 min infusion, elevation of fetal plasma adrenaline, probably resulting from a breakdown of the placental permeability barrier, may be an important signal.