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J Reprod Fertil. 1988 Jan;82(1):299-308.

Endocrine changes, with special emphasis on oestradiol-17 beta, prolactin and oxytocin, before and during labour and delivery in goats.

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  • 1Department of Animal Science, Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14853-4801.


Jugular plasma concentrations of oestradiol-17 beta, prolactin, progesterone and 13,14-dihydro-15-keto-prostaglandin F-2 alpha (PGFM) were measured at 2-h intervals during the last 4 days of pregnancy in 6 goats. During advanced labour and delivery, samples were obtained more frequently and assayed for oxytocin. The animals were housed in a barn with continuous dim lighting. A distinct pattern of oscillation in prolactin concentrations, with peaks during the late afternoon, was apparent during the last 3 days. Geometric means of peak concentrations doubled each day and became of longer duration; night-time nadir values remained low except during the last night before parturition. A progressive increase in oestradiol-17 beta, with mean levels doubling every 36 h, was apparent during the last 3 days. There was no sharp pre-partum increase in oestradiol-17 beta. Correlated (r = 0.83) with the increase in oestradiol-17 beta was a gradual increase in PGFM and when the latter reached approximately 1000 pg/ml, the non-reversible decline in progesterone reflecting pre-partum luteolysis occurred. Subsequent changes in PGFM related closely to an approximately 20-fold increase in the ratio of oestradiol-17 beta to progesterone until maximal PGFM levels of 26.5 +/- 4.2 ng/ml were reached at delivery. Basal concentrations of oxytocin (8-15 microU/ml) were measured before the last 60 min and markedly higher, though erratic, concentrations were detected at various times before appearance of the allantochorion. Maximal oxytocin values (range 180-1570 microU/ml) occurred within minutes before or after delivery of the first fetus. The results suggest that increased pre-partum production of oestradiol-17 beta, in addition to provoking sufficient release of prostaglandins to cause luteolysis, may modulate either the sensitivity or set-points for an endogenous rhythm in prolactin secretion at the end of pregnancy. The nature of the oxytocin changes suggest that, after labour has evolved sufficiently, delivery is precipitated by an abrupt increase in oxytocin secretion.

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