Early Human Development
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Background: We determined the impact of gestational age (GA) from near term to term to post-term on birth/placental weight ratio and cord oxygen values with implications for placental transport efficiency for oxygen, fetal O2 consumption relative to delivery or fractional O2 extraction, and oxygen margin of safety.
Materials and methods: A hospital database was used to obtain birth/placental weight ratios, cord PO2 and other information on patients delivering between Jan 1, 1990 and Jun 15, 2011 with GA > 34 completed weeks (N=69,852). Oxygen saturation was calculated from the cord PO2 and pH data, while fractional O2 extraction was calculated from the oxygen saturation data. The effect of GA grouping on birth/placental weight ratio, cord PO2, O2 saturation, and fractional O2 extraction values, was examined in all patients adjusting for pregnancy and labor/delivery covariates, and in a subset of low-risk patients.
Results: Birth/placental weight ratio and umbilical venous O2 values increased with advancing GA, supporting the conjecture of increasing placental transport efficiency for oxygen. However, umbilical arterial O2 values decreased while fractional O2 extraction increased with successive GA groupings, indicating that fetal O2 consumption must be increasing relative to delivery.
Conclusions: Fetal O2 consumption can be seen as ever ‘outgrowing’ O2 delivery over the last weeks of pregnancy and leading to a continued lowering in systemic oxygen levels. While this lowering in oxygen may trigger feedback mechanisms with survival benefit, the ‘oxygen margin of safety’ will also be lowered increasing perinatal morbidity and mortality which appear to be hypoxia related.
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