Maternal Oxytocin Administration Before Birth Influences the Effects of Birth Anoxia on the Neonatal Rat Brain

Neurochem Res. 2015 Aug;40(8):1631-43. doi: 10.1007/s11064-015-1645-7. Epub 2015 Jun 25.


Ineffective contractions and prolonged labor are common birth complications in primiparous women, and oxytocin is the most common agent given for induction or augmentation of labor. Clinical studies in humans suggest oxytocin might adversely affect the CNS response to hypoxia at birth. In this study, we used a rat model of global anoxia during Cesarean section birth to test if administering oxytocin to pregnant dams prior to birth affects the acute neonatal CNS response to birth anoxia. Anoxic pups born from dams pre-treated with intravenous injections or infusions of oxytocin before birth showed significantly increased brain lactate, a metabolic indicator of CNS hypoxia, compared to anoxic pups from dams pre-treated with saline. Anoxic pups born from dams given oxytocin before birth also showed decreased brain ATP compared to anoxic pups from saline dams. Direct injection of oxytocin to postnatal day 2 rat pups followed by exposure to anoxia also resulted in increased brain lactate and decreased brain ATP, compared to anoxia exposure alone. Oxytocin pre-treatment of the dam decreased brain malondialdehyde, a marker of lipid peroxidation, as well as protein kinase C activity, both in anoxic pups and controls, suggesting oxytocin may reduce aspects of oxidative stress. Finally, when dams were pretreated with indomethacin, a cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitor, maternal oxytocin no longer potentiated effects of anoxia on neonatal brain lactate, suggesting this effect of oxytocin may be mediated via prostaglandin production or other COX-derived products. The results indicate that maternal oxytocin administration may have multiple acute effects on CNS metabolic responses to anoxia at birth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Hypoxia, Brain / chemically induced
  • Hypoxia, Brain / metabolism*
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Oxytocin / administration & dosage*
  • Oxytocin / toxicity
  • Parturition / drug effects
  • Parturition / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Oxytocin