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High Alt Med Biol. 2003 Summer;4(2):141-56.

Fetal growth restriction and maternal oxygen transport during high altitude pregnancy.

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Women's Health Research Center and Cardiovascular Pulmonary Research Laboratory, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO, USA.


High altitude reduces birth weights, averaging a 100-g fall per 1000 m elevation gain, as the result of restriction of third trimester fetal growth. Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) raises neonatal or infant mortality at low as well as at high altitude, but existing studies are unclear as to whether IUGR-specific mortality at high altitude is similar to, less than, or greater than at low altitude. Pregnancy increases maternal ventilation and raises arterial O(2) saturation at high altitude, which helps to protect against altitude-associated IUGR. Chronic hypoxia interferes with the maternal circulatory adjustments to pregnancy such that blood volume is lower and the rise in cardiac output diminished compared with sea level. The growth and remodeling of the uterine artery and other uteroplacental vessels is incomplete at high compared with low altitude, with the result that there is less redistribution of common iliac flow from the external iliac to the uterine arteries and lower uterine artery blood flow near term. Adaptations in multigenerational high altitude populations (e.g., Andeans and Tibetans) permit higher uterine artery blood flows and protect against altitude-associated IUGR.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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