Influence of restricted maternal nutrition in early to mid gestation on placental and fetal development at term in sheep

Pediatr Res. 1998 Oct;44(4):546-51. doi: 10.1203/00006450-199810000-00013.


We investigated the influence of restricted maternal nutrition between 28 and 77 d of gestation on placental weight and appearance, and on fetal weight and conformation. Single-bearing ewes were fed either twice [i.e. controls (n = 19)] or half [i.e. nutrient-restricted (n = 28)] their energy requirements from 28 to 77 d of gestation, after which all ewes were fed to fully meet the energy requirements for maintenance and pregnancy. Close to term (145 +/- 1 d) placental weight was higher in the nutrient-restricted group [nutrient-restricted, 416.3 +/- 12.6 g; controls, 347.4 +/- 17.6 g (p < 0.01)], as was the abundance of everted placentomes. There was no significant difference in total fetal weight, or weights of individual organs between groups, but crown-rump length was significantly greater in lambs born to nutrient-restricted ewes [nutrient-restricted, 50.4 +/- 0.4 cm; controls, 48.2 +/- 0.6, cm (p < 0.01)]. Fetal to placental weight ratio was lower in the nutrient-restricted group [nutrient-restricted, 9.51 +/- 0.23; controls, 10.81 +/- 0.39 (p < 0.01)]. A stronger relationship between the total weight of the fetal component of the placental and fetal weight was observed in controls (r2 = 0.50) than in nutrient-restricted ewes (r2 = 0.18). In conclusion, maternal nutrient restriction over the period of rapid placental growth results in a larger placenta and altered placental to fetal weight ratio if ewes are subsequently fed to requirements for the remainder of gestation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Body Constitution
  • Body Weight
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development*
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Nutrition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Organ Size
  • Placenta / physiopathology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Sheep


  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified