Effects of hyperthermia on fetal breathing movements

D. W. Walker, A. N. Davies

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High environmental temperature is known to impair fetal growth and development. We now report long lasting changes in fetal breathing activity following the exposure of pregnant ewes to an ambient temperature of 43 degrees C for 8 h. In 16 trials in 10 ewes (119-138 days gestation) heat exposure increased maternal and fetal core temperatures 1.5-2.0 degrees C, and the hyperventilation by the ewe produced a fall in fetal PaCO2 from 53.5 +/- 1.3 to 34.8 +/- 5.3 mmHg (P less than 0.05). Fetal breathing movements decreased in incidence during the hyperthermia but remained episodic (present during low-voltage electrocortical activity) with occasional brief episodes of breathing at high rates (greater than 4 breaths/s). However, 1-2 h after the end of heating, when maternal and fetal core temperature and PaCO2 had returned to normal, fetal breathing movements became continuous, and were augmented 30-100% in amplitude. Fetal breathing movements occurred during both low- and high-voltage electrocortical activity. The results show that a heat load similar to that experienced by sheep in sub-tropical regions in the summer months cause prolonged changes in the central regulation of fetal breathing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-497
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Developmental Physiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1986

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