Mechanisms of Uterine Artery Dysfunction in Pregnancy Complications

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Abstract

Pregnancy is a unique condition, and the vascular processes that are required for this undertaking are both complex and extensive. In this review, we discuss the vascular adaptations which occur in the maternal uterine arterial bed to maintain blood supply to the fetal-placental unit. In complicated pregnancies, inadequate remodeling of the uterine arteries, hormonal imbalances, and pre-existing conditions such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes etc. may lead to maladaptations of the uterine vasculature that includes increased vasoconstriction and endothelial dysfunction. Ultimately, uterine artery dysfunction results in increased vascular resistance impeding blood flow to the fetal-placental unit and limiting fetal growth and development. A strong association exists between poor fetal development in utero and later life health issues, which can include obesity, poor neurological development, and enhanced susceptibility to cardiovascular disease. Therefore, the detrimental outcomes of a complicated pregnancy are far-reaching and significantly impact the health of the population as a whole. Many treatment options to improve maternal uterine artery function and ameliorate the impact on the fetus are being considered. A particular difficulty in treating complicated pregnancies is the presence of not 1 but (at least) 2 patients. Novel approaches are required to successfully improve pregnancy outcomes and minimize the impact on later life health.

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