The Effects of Catecholamines and Drug Treatment on the Fetus and Newborn


  • This paper was presented at the conference Technological Approaches to Obstetrics: Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, sponsored by the University of California Program in Maternal and Child Health, School of Public Health, Birth and the Family Journal, the Bay Area and Los Angeles Chapters of ASPO and the North American Society for Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology on Feb. 3–4, 1979.


ABSTRACT: The fetus is capable of producing catecholamines from early in gestation. Normal concentrations of these compounds are necessary for fetal and neonatal homeostasis, and for successfully completing the transition from fetal to neonatal life. Fetal and neonatal stress result in marked elevations of catecholamine levels, causing a large number of physiologic derangements. While fetal catecholamines are endogenously produced, maternal illness and anxiety can initiate the chain of maternal catecholamine production, causing dysfunctional labor and uterine hypoperfusion, and through this mechanism, fetal distress. Measures to reduce maternal anxiety should have a high priority in the management of labor. While nonpharmacologic methods may suffice, the use of analgesic agents in moderate doses may be protective to the fetus in selected circumstances.