Background: The systemic hemodynamic profile of human pregnancy is characterized by a decrease in mean arterial pressure, a rise in cardiac output and plasma volume in association with an increase in renal plasma flow and glomerular filtration rate. The factors and the time course responsible for the initial hemodynamic changes seen in human pregnancy have not been completely documented. We hypothesize that systemic and renal hemodynamic changes occur early, prior to the presence of the fetal-placental unit.
Methods: Thirteen women were studied prior to and immediately following conception in identical fashion at gestational weeks 6, 8, 10, 12, 24 and 36. Individuals underwent mean arterial pressure, cardiac output, inulin and PAH clearance determinations.
Results: Mean arterial pressure decreased by six weeks gestation (mid follicular 81.5 +/- 2.6 vs. six weeks 68.7 +/- 2.0 mm tig, P < 0.001) in association with a significant increase in cardiac output, a decrease in systemic vascular resistance and an increase in plasma volume. Renal plasma flow and glomerular filtration rate increased by six weeks gestation. Plasma renin activity and aldosterone concentration increased significantly by six weeks, whereas norepinephrine levels did not change throughout pregnancy. Atrial natriuretic peptide levels increased later, at 12 weeks gestation. Plasma cGMP levels decreased and cGMP clearance increased by six and eight weeks, respectively.
Conclusions: Peripheral vasodilation occurs early in pregnancy prior to full placentation in association with renal vasodilation and activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. Plasma volume expansion occurs early, followed later by increases in ANP concentration, suggesting that ANP increases in response to changes in intravasular volume.