Challenges posed to the maternal circulation by pregnancy
Gloria Valdés, Jenny Corthorn
Centro de Investigaciones Médicas y Departamento Nefrología, Escuela Medicina, Pontificia Universidad Católica, Santiago, Chile
Abstract: In primates, adequate growth of the fetus depends on the development of the uteroplacental unit. On the fetal side, this is achieved by the creation of the vascular network of the placenta. On the maternal side, the transformation of the spiral arteries into saccular nonreactive vessels by the trophoblast provides high blood flow to the intervillous space. Apart from the changes in the uterine arteries, the mother expands her plasma volume – at the expense of stimulating the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system – and her cardiac output. In the maintaining of normotension in the face of an increased cardiac output and plasma volume, the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system requires an enhanced vasodilator synthesis. Finally, in the late stages of pregnancy, a normal endothelial function is required to provide an ample margin to the activation provoked by deportation of syncytiotrophoblast fragments/factors to the maternal circulation. These four adaptative processes require various interrelated vasodilator systems. Deficient adaptations cause isolated or proteinuric arterial hypertension, intrauterine growth restriction, preterm delivery, and stillbirths, among others. Moreover, a normal or a defective adaptation to pregnancy influences maternal cardiovascular health in later life, as evidenced by various studies, most of them epidemiological; thus, pregnancy is now considered a stress test to the maternal cardiovascular system. Because of this, women planning to become pregnant should be screened for clinical and biochemical cardiovascular risks. Inversely, women presenting with hypertension in pregnancy should be thoroughly studied to detect and correct cardiovascular risks. The incorporation of the predictive value of a hypertensive pregnancy should help reduce cardiovascular disease in women.
Keywords: renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, prostanoids, kallikrein-kinin system, RAS, VEGF
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