The effects of anaemia on heart, placenta and body weight, and blood pressure in fetal and neonatal rats

J Physiol. 1995 Oct 15;488 ( Pt 2)(Pt 2):515-9. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1995.sp020986.


1. Reports that maternal anaemia in pregnancy is associated with a greater placental: birth weight ratio, which predisposes towards high postnatal blood pressure in the human, led us to examine the effects of maternal anaemia during pregnancy on placental size, fetal and neonatal growth, and blood pressure development in the rat. 2. Nutritional anaemia was induced in female rats prior to mating and maintained throughout pregnancy and up until weaning of the pups. Fetuses were studied at 20 days of gestation (E20). Pups were studied on postnatal days 20 (P20) and 40 (P40), having been weaned onto normal rat chow at 21 days. 3. In the anaemic group placental: fetal body weight ratios were lower compared with controls. Body weights at all ages were lower in the anaemic group than in controls, despite a greater rate of growth in the anaemic group between P20 and P40. 4. At P20 heart weights of the anaemic group were almost twice that of controls, suggesting an alteration in their cardiovascular development. However, paradoxically, the systolic blood pressure of the anaemic group was lower than that of controls. 5. By P40 the systolic blood pressure of the anaemic group (136 +/- 3 mmHg) had increased and was greater than that in control pups (126 +/- 3 mmHg). 6. In conclusion, we have shown that there is a pronounced postnatal rise in systolic blood pressure associated with maternal anaemia during pregnancy, which is not related to a greater placental: birth weight ratio. Before weaning, anaemic pups have a lower systolic blood pressure than controls and there is an important association between the rate of postnatal growth and blood pressure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / pathology*
  • Anemia / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / physiology
  • Birth Weight / physiology
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Heart / pathology
  • Fetal Heart / physiopathology
  • Heart / physiopathology
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Placenta / pathology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Animal / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Hemoglobins