Postnatal outcomes in term and preterm lambs following fetal growth restriction

M. L. Cock, Ej Camm, S. Louey, Bj Joyce, R. Harding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


1. Epidemiological evidence indicates that low birthweight increases the risk of a number of adult-onset diseases. It is now apparent that many babies with a low birthweight may have been subjected to a combination of reduced growth rates in utero as well as preterm birth. However, the long-term effects of preterm birth following intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR) are unknown. Thus, our objectives were: (i) to identify prenatal factors associated with preterm birth in IUGR fetuses; and (ii) to characterize postnatal effects of preterm birth following IUGR. 2. We studied pregnant sheep and their offspring, in which fetal growth was restricted by umbilico-placental embolization during late gestation. Some of these animals were born at term (146 ± 1 days) and some were born prematurely (139 ± 1 days). In both groups, we have conducted longitudinal studies of postnatal respiratory function, cardiovascular function and learning ability up to 6-8 weeks of age. 3. Before birth, IUGR fetuses born prematurely (P-IUGR) were more hypoxaemic and acidaemic and had higher haemoglobin concentrations than both control fetuses and IUGR fetuses born at term (T-IUGR). In P-IUGR fetuses, plasma cortisol concentrations increased earlier than in the two other groups. The P-IUGR lambs had lower birthweights than T-IUGR lambs and both groups of IUGR lambs remained lighter than controls for 8 weeks. 4. After birth, P-IUGR lambs were hypoxaemic compared with T-IUGR and control lambs. Pulmonary diffusing capacity (adjusted for lung volume) was significantly lower in both groups of IUGR lambs than in controls, with P-IUGR lambs having lower values than T-IUGR lambs. Lung compliance (adjusted for lung volume), was not different between P-IUGR and control lambs, but values were higher in T-IUGR lambs than in control and P-IUGR lambs. Chest wall compliance (adjusted for lung volume) was higher in both groups of IUGR lambs than in controls. 5. During the 8 week postnatal study period, both groups of UGR lambs had lower mean arterial pressures than control lambs; this relative hypotension was greatest in P-IUGR lambs. 6. In tests of learning ability, P-IUGR lambs took longer to complete a simple maze task at all ages and, in the second postnatal week, made a greater number of errors compared with controls. In an obstacle course, P-IUGR lambs recorded longer trial durations; they also made more errors than control lambs. 7. We conclude that preterm birth in the presence of late-gestational placental insufficiency and IUGR can result in specific effects on respiratory and cardiovascular development after birth, in addition to the effects of IUGR alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)931-937
Number of pages7
JournalClinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Fetal
  • Intra-uterine growth restriction
  • Postnatal outcomes
  • Preterm birth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology (medical)


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