Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2008 Apr;30(4):312-6.

Fetal heart rate response to maternal hypocapnia and hypercapnia in late gestation.

Author information

  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Queen's University, Kingston ON, Canada.



To examine the effects of acute maternal hypocapnia and hypercapnia on electronic fetal heart rate (FHR) patterns in late gestation.


Thirty-five women with healthy singleton pregnancies performed a modified carbon dioxide (CO2) rebreathing procedure between 34 and 38 weeks of pregnancy. Prior to rebreathing, subjects hyperventilated for five minutes to reduce end-tidal CO2 tensions (PETco2) below 23 Torr (hypocapnia). During rebreathing, PETco2 progressively increased from hypocapnia to hypercapnia (PETco2 = 40-60 Torr) at a constant hyperoxic end-tidal O2 tension of 150 Torr. FHR responses were classified using standardized guidelines over four periods: 20 minutes before rebreathing (pretest), during hypocapnia and hypercapnia, and 20 minutes after rebreathing (post-test).


Mean baseline FHR measures (SD) over the four test periods were 138(8), 144(10), 132(11), and 137(9) beats per minute (bpm). All pairwise comparisons were statistically significant except the pretest versus post-test comparison (P < 0.05, Tukey-Kramer multiple comparisons test). A single tachycardia episode of 170 bpm was recorded in the post-test period. In 20 subjects FHR variability changed from moderate in the pretest period to minimal during hypocapnia and/or hypercapnia. All but two returned to moderate FHR variability in the post-test period. One other fetus with minimal post-test variability had moderate values in the three preceding test periods.


Electronic FHR parameters remained within normal limits for third-trimester fetuses with the exception of one fetus that experienced tachycardia. Acute maternal hypocapnia and hypercapnia over the range studied had no adverse effects on fetal well-being. These results support the safety of the modified CO2 rebreathing procedure for research in healthy, low-risk pregnancy.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk