Author(s): Samantha Louey
Low birth weight has been associated with elevated arterial pressure in later life but mechanisms are unknown. Our aim was to determine the effects of low birth weight resulting from intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) on fetal and postnatal arterial pressures and the potential roles of circulating cortisol and renin. We induced IUGR by umbilico-placental embolization (UPE) in fetal sheep from 120 d of gestation until birth (approximately 147 d); postnatal lambs (8 IUGR, 8 controls) were studied for 8 wk. Fetal and postnatal arterial pressures were measured and blood samples taken for measurement of gas tensions, cortisol concentrations and renin activity. In IUGR fetuses, mean arterial pressure (MAP) initially increased with UPE, but near term was not different to values in controls. IUGR lambs weighed 33% less than controls at birth and remained lighter than controls during the 8 postnatal weeks; their growth pattern was different to that of controls. IUGR lambs had lower MAP than controls, and this relative hypotension (-4 mm Hg) persisted throughout the 8 postnatal weeks. Covariate analysis showed that the relative hypotension of IUGR lambs could have resulted from their smaller size. Plasma cortisol concentrations were not different between IUGR and control animals before or after birth. Plasma renin activity was not different in postnatal IUGR lambs compared with controls. Thus, postnatal cortisol and renin levels were not consistent with the development of hypotension or hypertension. We conclude that late gestational IUGR in sheep leads to relative hypotension in the early postnatal period, probably a result of reduced body size.