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J Perinatol. 1999 Oct-Nov;19(7):479-82.

Influence of postdatism and meconium on fetal erythropoietin.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.



To determine whether fetal erythropoietin (Epo) concentrations are increased in pregnancies extending beyond 41 weeks' gestation and whether this is influenced by the presence of meconium-stained amniotic fluid.


Epo concentrations were measured in 116 fetal umbilical cord blood samples from otherwise uncomplicated pregnancies between 37 to 43 weeks' gestation during the period of October 1996 to October 1997. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kit was used to measure Epo. Maternal demographics and birth outcomes including Apgar score, cord blood pH, and base deficit were obtained. Fetuses born between 41 and 43 weeks' gestation (post-term) were compared with matched controls born between 37 and 40 weeks' gestation (term). In addition, both post-term and term fetuses with meconium-stained amniotic fluid were compared with matched controls without meconium.


Post-term fetuses without meconium had significantly higher Epo levels compared with term fetuses (mean +/- SEM: 50.6 +/- 6.5 versus 29.5 +/- 3.3 mIU/ml, p = 0.002). When matched for gestational age, fetuses with meconium-stained amniotic fluid had significantly greater Epo concentrations compared with controls without meconium (post-term, 80.7 versus 50.6 mIU/ml; term, 61.4 versus 29.5 mIU/ml; p < 0.05). However, no significant difference in Epo levels was found between post-term fetuses with meconium and term fetuses with meconium (80.7 +/- 15.7 mIU/ml versus 61.4 +/- 12.8 mIU/ml, respectively). Mean cord blood pH and base deficit values for all groups were within normal clinical range.


Cord blood Epo concentrations were significantly increased in pregnancies extending beyond 41 weeks. Irrespective of gestational age, meconium-stained amniotic fluid was associated with a significant rise in Epo. High Epo levels in these pregnancies imply subacute or chronic fetal hypoxia. Close clinical monitoring of post-term fetuses and those with meconium-stained amniotic fluid is warranted.

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