Fetal circulation has characteristic features, being morphologically and functionally different from extrauterine circulation. The ductus arteriosus plays a fundamental role in directing the blood flow to fetal inferior body parts. Basically, the ductus arteriosus directs 80-85% of the right ventricular output arising from the superior vena cava, coronary sinus, and a small part from the inferior vena cava to descending aorta. Its histological structure is made up predominantly by a thick muscular layer, differently from the aorta and the pulmonary artery, which increases with gestational age. The fibers have a circumferential orientation, especially at the external layers, facilitating and making effective ductal constriction. These factors may generate lumen alterations which may cause fetal and neonatal complications, such as heart failure, hydrops, neonatal pulmonary hypertension, and even death. Classically, maternal administration of indomethacin and/or other antiinflammatory drugs interfere in prostaglandins metabolism, causing ductal constriction. However, many cases of fetal ductal constriction, as well as of persistent neonatal pulmonary artery hypertension, remain without an established etiology, being referred as "idiopathic." In recent years, a growing body of evidence has shown that herbs, fruits, nuts, and a wide diversity of substances commonly used in daily diets have definitive effects upon the metabolic pathway of inflammation, with consequent inhibition of prostaglandins synthesis. This antiinflammatory action, especially of polyphenols, when ingested during the third trimester of pregnancy, may influence the dynamics of fetal ductus arteriosus flow. The goal of this review is to present these new observations and findings, which may influence dietary orientation during pregnancy.
Keywords: antiinflammatory substances; ductal constriction; polyphenols; prostaglandins; pulmonary hypertension.
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