Fetal and placental responses to artificially induced hyperthermia in rats



Pregnant rats were utilized to study the effect of maternal hyperthermia on fetal development. Eight groups of six to eight rats were exposed to ambient temperatures of 43-44cC at various stages of pregnancy. All rats were killed on day 20 of gestation. Edema, microencephaly and microph-thalmia followed heat treatment on day 4, 6, or 8 and skeletal defects occurred on day 10 of gestation. Apparently heat stress of dams after day 14 of gestation had little or no effect on embryos. Most placentas from day 6-10 treatment groups were significantly heavier than control and exhibited extensive thickening and necrosis of decidua basalis. Our results suggest that the rat is a useful model for investigating maternal hyperthermia as a possible cause of human placentophathies and fetal retardation.