Effects of electrical stimulation of the neurohypophysis on labour in the rat

K. Boer, D. W. Lincoln, D. F. Swaab

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Labour was studied in 69 primiparous and multiparous rats by continuous observation and by the recording of intra-uterine activity. The effect of electrical stimulation of the neurohypophysis with stimulation parameters selected to create a pulsatile release of oxytocin was investigated. Stimulation was applied to the neurohypophysis through chronically implanted electrodes every 5 min, in 45 min sessions, from noon on Day 21 of gestation and at 3 h intervals thereafter. Electrical stimulation successfully promoted (or induced) the onset and facilitated the course of labour. Stimulation at 12.00 h on Day 21, or at a subsequent stimulation session 3, 6, 9 or more hours later, promoted an immediate increase in the frequency and amplitude of uterine contractions. Overt signs of abdominal straining followed within 5-30 min and the first pup was delivered shortly thereafter. These 'induced' deliveries were almost identical to those displayed by control rats; labour continued to completion despite the termination of the stimulation session after 45 min. By contrast, one third of the stimulated animals displayed an interrupted pattern of labour in which events virtually ceased for 30-60 min when stimulation was terminated. Stimulation, however, only advanced labour by 1-2 h in relation to control animals; this was not statistically significant. Stimulation accelerated the delivery of the first 5 pups in each litter. In both stimulated and control animals, the birth intervals declined over these first few deliveries to reach the lowest values of 5-6 min throughout the remainder of labour. The most common litter size was 12 pups. The distribution of labour on Day 21 and 22 was bimodal. Seventy per cent of the animals gave birth between 12.00 and 18.00 h on Day 21, a few gave birth during the following night and the remainder formed a second peak on Day 22. All litters of less than 6 pups were born during this later period. The implications of these results in the context of spontaneous labour are discussed. We conclude that endogenous oxytocin (with perhaps other neurohypophysial hormones) released in pulses of 1-3 mu. every 5 min can promote a pattern of labour on Day 21 of gestation that is almost indistinguishable from that which occurs naturally
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-176
JournalJournal of endocrinology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1975

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