Fetal storage of osmotically inactive sodium

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2020 Mar 1;318(3):R512-R514. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00336.2019. Epub 2020 Jan 15.


Work in adult humans and animals suggest sodium (Na) is stored in tissue reservoirs without commensurate water retention. These stores may protect from water loss, regulate immune function, and participate in blood pressure regulation. A role for such stores early in life, during which total body Na sufficiency is vital for optimal growth, has not been explored. Using data from previously published literature, we calculated total body stores of Na, potassium (K), and chloride (Cl) during fetal development (24-40 wk gestation) using two methods 1) based on the distribution of body water mass within extracellular and intracellular compartments, and 2) reported total mineral content. Based on differences between the models, we argue that Na, and to a lesser extent Cl, but not K, are stored in osmotically inactive pools within the fetus that increase with advancing gestational age. Because human breastmilk is relatively Na deficient, we speculate the fetal osmotically inactive Na pool is vital for providing a sufficient total body Na content that supports optimal postnatal growth.

Keywords: fetus; growth; sodium.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Body Water / physiology
  • Fetus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Minerals / metabolism*
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Sodium / metabolism*
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance / physiology*


  • Minerals
  • Sodium
  • Potassium