Obstetric nephrology: renal hemodynamic and metabolic physiology in normal pregnancy

Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2012 Dec;7(12):2073-80. doi: 10.2215/CJN.00470112. Epub 2012 Aug 9.


Glomerular hyperfiltration, altered tubular function, and shifts in electrolyte-fluid balance are among the hallmark renal physiologic changes that characterize a healthy pregnancy. These adjustments are not only critical to maternal and fetal well being, but also provide the clinical context for identifying gestational aberrations in renal function and electrolyte composition. Systemic vasodilation characterizes early gestation and produces increments in renal plasma flow and GFR, the latter of which is maintained into the postpartum period. In addition, renal tubular changes allow for the accumulation of nutrients and electrolytes necessary for fetal growth such that wasting of proteins, glucose, and amino acids in urine is limited in pregnancy and total body stores of electrolytes increase throughout gestation. Substantial insight into the mechanisms underlying these complex adjustments can be gleaned from the available animal and human literature, but our understanding in many areas remains incomplete. This article reviews the available literature on renal adaptation to normal pregnancy, including renal function, tubular function, and electrolyte-fluid balance, along with the clinical ramifications of these adjustments, the limitations of the existing literature, and suggestions for future studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney / physiology*
  • Kidney Tubules / physiology
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance