Parturition in the Sheep and the Human

  • G. C. Liggins
Part of the Basic Life Sciences book series (BLSC, volume 4)


The physiology of pregnancy and parturition in sheep and humans has features of a broad character common to both species. In matters of detail, however, the dissimilarities are such as to discourage attempts to look for common ground. Ryan (1971) condemned ‘any insistence that all influences on pregnancy length or initiation of labor such as ruptured membranes, hydramnios, multiple pregnancy, fetal death, neurohypophyseal hormones, catecholamines, and others too numerous to mention can all be reconciled into a holistic theory’. This wise counsel can be interpreted too literally if the word ‘holistic’ is taken to exclude the possibility of a common final pathway by which these various factors exert their influence on the time of parturition. Clearly, all of them have in common an effect, direct or indirect, on the contractile protein of the smooth muscle of the uterus. Furthermore, it seems likely that they all ultimately express their effects through an alteration in the intracellular binding of Ca2+ (Carsten, 1973), and possibly in the concentration of cyclic AMP (Bhalla and Korenman, 1973). Taken together, the smooth muscle cell, Ca2+ flux, and cyclic AMP could be said to constitute a common pathway. Presumably, Ryan had in mind a comprehensive mechanism which could be applied in toto to many species and, within a given species, to all known influences on gestation length. If so, one can only agree with him. Yet elucidation of fundamental processes having no regard for species would seem to deserve the greatest urgency in our efforts to extend the understanding of the physiological determinants of gestation length and the initiation of labor.


Uterine Contraction Decidual Cell Uterine Epithelium Uterine Smooth Muscle Adrenal Hypoplasia 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. C. Liggins
    • 1
  1. 1.Postgraduate School of Obstetrics and GynaecologyUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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