Placental insufficiency in relation to postterm pregnancy and fetal postmaturity. Evaluation of fetoplacental function; management of the postterm gravida

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1975 Sep 1;123(1):67-103. doi: 10.1016/0002-9378(75)90951-5.


As pregnancy extends post term, incidence of placental insufficiency, fetal postmaturity (dysmaturity), and fetal perinatal death increases rapidly as a consequence of reduced respiratory and nutritive placental function. Despite a compensatory fetoplacental respiratory reserve capacity, fetal distress is observed in about one third of postterm pregnancies. On a biochemical level, placental pathophysiology in postterm-postmaturity pregnancies is not well understood. Postmaturity is correlated with increased incidence of placental lesions, fetal hypoxia-asphyxia, intrauterine growth retardation, increased perinatal death, and neonatal morbidity. Early diagnosis of fetal postmaturity is difficult because currently applied test methods allow recognition only when placental insufficiency is far progressed. Therefore, in postterm gravidas with a favorable cervix, induction of labor should be considered; in older primigravidas, in whom fetal losses may be sevenfold increased, or in multiparas with a history of obstetric complications, pregnancy may require termination by cesarean section. Pregnancy may be allowed to continue under close supervision in cases of uncertainty of duration of gestation, in gravidas carrying small babies, in young primigravidas, and in multigravidas in whom placentofetal function tests are normal. As long as fetal scalp blood sampling during labor does not show fetal acidosis, despite abnormal fetal heart rate pattern and meconium release, vaginal delivery may be attempted when deemed possible within a few hours. In parturients attention must be paid to the extent of uterine activity and type of medication; lateral positioning of the gravida and maternal oxygen breathing, facilitating fetal oxygen supply, are important features. Because during bearing-down efforts placentofetal respiratory reserves of postterm gravidas may become further compromised, immediate delivery by forceps or vacuum extraction may be considered. After delivery the umbilical cord should not be clamped immediately in order to allow increased fetal blood supply and to counteract fetal hypovolemia. Dysmature newborn infants require special care by the neonatologist.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Cesarean Section
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / analysis
  • Fetal Death / epidemiology
  • Fetal Distress / diagnosis
  • Fetal Distress / metabolism
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Labor, Induced
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / metabolism
  • Parity
  • Placenta / physiopathology
  • Placenta Diseases*
  • Placental Hormones / metabolism
  • Placental Insufficiency* / diagnosis
  • Placental Insufficiency* / metabolism
  • Placental Insufficiency* / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Prolonged*
  • Rats


  • Placental Hormones
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone