Objective: The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that early pregnancy changes in volume homeostasis develop as a consequence of preceding changes in maternal hemodynamics.
Study design: Maternal cardiovascular function of 10 pregnant women was followed up by Doppler echocardiography. Vascular filling state and volume homeostasis were evaluated by echocardiographic index values, glomerular filtration rate, serum osmolality, and volume-regulating hormones. Studies were performed weekly in early pregnancy, in the second and third trimesters, and post partum. Changes relative to the fifth week and the consistency of changes between weeks 5 and 8 were evaluated by nonparametric statistics.
Results: In early pregnancy cardiac output increased and afterload decreased. Concomitant increases in ultrasonic preload index values and glomerular filtration rate were accompanied by decreases in serum renin, Na+, and osmolality.
Conclusion: These data support the concept that maternal hemodynamic adaptation to pregnancy is most likely triggered by a primary fall in systemic vascular tone. The resulting rapid fall in preload and afterload leads to a compensatory increase in heart rate and activation of the volume-restoring mechanisms. Subsequently cardiac output increases because of a rise in stroke volume, which develops because the vascular filling state normalizes, whereas the reduced afterload reduction is maintained.