Causes of oxidative stress in the pre- and perinatal period

Biol Neonate. 2002;81(3):146-57. doi: 10.1159/000051527.


Oxidative stress may be defined as an imbalance between pro-oxidant and antioxidant forces resulting in an overall pro-oxidant insult. Pregnancy is a physiological state accompanied by a high energy demand of many bodily functions and an increased oxygen requirement. Because of the increased intake and utilization of oxygen, augmented levels of oxidative stress would be expected. Arguments for a role of oxidative stress/oxidative lipid derivatives in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia are documented in many papers and evidence continues to accumulate that oxidative stress is a mediator of endothelial dysfunction and thus contributes to the cardiovascular complications of preeclampsia. Also other conditions, such as toxic substance exposure, smoking and asphyxia likewise induce oxidative stress. The oxidized lipid products generated as a consequence of these conditions are highly reactive and cause damage to cells and cell membranes. Thus, increased oxidative stress accompanied by reduced endogenous defences may play a role in the pathogenesis of a number of diseases in the newborn.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Asphyxia Neonatorum / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fetus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn / physiology*
  • Infant, Premature / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Nitrites / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / metabolism
  • Pregnancy


  • Antioxidants
  • Nitrites
  • Nitric Oxide