Peripartal Endocrinology in the Mare and Foetus


Author's address (for correspondence): JC Ousey, Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Equine Fertility Unit, Newmarket, UK. E-mail:


The endocrine profiles in the periparturient mares are dominated by increasing concentrations of progestagens and decreasing oestrogens. These hormones are produced by precursors from the foetus, metabolized by the placenta and act primarily on the maternal uterus. The circulating concentrations of hormones in maternal plasma, generally, represent a small proportion of those metabolized by the foetus and utero-placental tissues. There is clear evidence that the foetal hypothalamo–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis initiates the process of foetal maturation and the hormonal cascade which culminates in parturition at term. The endocrine changes associated with abnormal pregnancy and abortion in late pregnancy are less well understood, as are the hormonal treatments needed to avert these problems. Further work is needed to establish the biological role of the various hormones present in pregnant mares and, in particular, those hormones which control myometrial quiescence.