Pituitary growth hormone (GH) is present in early pregnancy in the fetal circulation. The concentrations are higher than ever found during life, due to an unrestrained, basal secretion. GH receptors develop around midpregnancy, when they are present in low concentrations, and there is a rapid increase during the first months of life. The function of fetal GH - characterized by a nearly complete GH resistance - is largely unclear: there is only a small effect on longitudinal growth, and the regulation of growth factors is independent of GH. Possibly, metabolic effects of GH on fat and glucose metabolism and body composition are of greater importance. During the first months of life, the rapid fetal (GH-independent, nutrition-dependent) growth decelerates, a process that is partly compensated by the onset of GH-dependent longitudinal growth.
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