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Anim Reprod Sci. 2019 Apr 27. pii: S0378-4320(19)30207-6. doi: 10.1016/j.anireprosci.2019.04.011. [Epub ahead of print]

Stress effects on the regulation of parturition in different domestic animal species.

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Graf Lehndorff Institute, Vetmeduni Vienna, Hauptgestüt 10, 16845 Neustadt (Dosse), Germany. Electronic address:
Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transfer, Department for Small Animals and Horses, Vetmeduni Vienna, 1210 Vienna, Austria.
Obstetrics, Gynecology and Andrology, Department for Small Animals and Horses, Vetmeduni Vienna, 1210 Vienna, Austria.


This review summarizes current knowledge on stress-like responses in parturient animals and their role for the onset and fine-tuning of parturition. The antepartum maternal cortisol increase is part of the endocrine changes that initiate parturition but a further increase in cortisol release during labor indicates a stress response. During the last minutes of delivery, sinus arrhythmias occur in 80% of foaling mares and 60% of calving cows. Expulsion of the neonate is thus characterized by parasympathetic dominance. In late-pregnant cows transported by road, cortisol concentrations increased but relations between transport stress and abortion remain unclear. In mares, transport not only elicited a stress response but also advanced the time of foaling. Transferring parturient rats, mice and pigs after birth of the first pup or piglet, respectively, to a stressful environment prolonged the time until delivery of the next littermate. In rats and pigs, this was caused by an increased opioidergic tone that restrained oxytocin release. In mice, a stress-induced delay of subsequent deliveries was caused by increased sympathoadrenal activity. When foaling mares were transferred to an uncomfortable stable at fetal membrane rupture, time until complete birth of the foal was doubled. As in mice, increased sympathetic activity was the mechanism delaying the progress of foaling. An increased sympathetic activity is also present in parturient cows disturbed during an early stage of calving. In equine and bovine neonates, the immediate postnatal period is characterised by high sympathetic activity and an increase in cortisol concentration, indicating a pronounced stress-like response.


Cattle; Horse; Neonate; Parturition; Pig; Stress

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