Previous studies have suggested that the volume and production rate of fetal lung liquid decrease late in gestation, before the onset of labor, in preparation for the clearance of lung liquid at birth. In contrast, our earlier studies have not shown a decrease in lung liquid volume near term, although these studies were not continued to the onset of labor. Our aim was to determine the changes in lung liquid volume and production rate in fetal sheep during the last 2 wk of gestation up to the onset of labor at term (~147 days). In eight chronically catheterized fetal sheep, the volume and production rate of fetal lung liquid were measured at 130, 135, and 140 days of gestation and then on every 2nd day until the onset of labor. Labor was detected by monitoring uterine muscle activity and intrauterine pressure changes. On the day of labor onset, which occurred at 147 ± 1 days of gestation, fetuses weighed 5.0 ± 0.2 kg. The volume of fetal lung liquid was 40.4 ± 2.7 ml/kg at 19 ± 1 days before labor onset and had not significantly changed by 0.7 ± 0.2 days (44.8 ± 5.1 ml/kg) before labor. Similarly, lung liquid production rates at 19 ± 1 days before labor (5.1 ± 1.8 ml · h-1 · kg-1) were not significantly different from those at 0.7 ± 0.2 days before labor (3.4 ± 0.7 ml · h-1 · kg-1). We conclude that, in healthy ovine fetuses, lung liquid volumes and production rates do not decrease before the onset of labor. Our results indicate that the entire volume of fetal lung liquid (~222.5 ± 36.6 ml) must be cleared after the onset of labor.
- lung liquid volume