Placental hormones and the control of maternal metabolism and fetal growth

Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2011 Dec;18(6):409-16. doi: 10.1097/MED.0b013e32834c800d.


Purpose of review: To examine the roles of the placental and pituitary hormones in the control of maternal metabolism and fetal growth.

Recent findings: In addition to promoting growth of maternal tissues, placental growth hormone (GH-V) induces maternal insulin resistance and thereby facilitates the mobilization of maternal nutrients for fetal growth. Human placental lactogen (hPL) and prolactin increase maternal food intake by induction of central leptin resistance and promote maternal beta-cell expansion and insulin production to defend against the development of gestational diabetes mellitus. The effects of the lactogens are mediated by diverse signaling pathways and are potentiated by glucose. Pathologic conditions of pregnancy are associated with dysregulation of GH-V and hPL gene expression.

Summary: The somatogenic and lactogenic hormones of the placenta and maternal pituitary gland integrate the metabolic adaptations of pregnancy with the demands of fetal and neonatal development. Dysregulation of placental growth hormone and/or placental lactogen in pathologic conditions of pregnancy may adversely impact fetal growth and postnatal metabolic function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / physiology
  • Fetus / physiology*
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange / physiology
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Placenta / chemistry
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Placental Hormones / physiology*
  • Pregnancy


  • Adipokines
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • Placental Hormones