To test the hypothesis that increased hypoxic ventilatory responsiveness (HVR) raised maternal ventilation and arterial oxygenation during high-altitude pregnancy and related to the birth weight of the offspring, we studied 21 residents of Cerro de Pasco, Peru (4,300 m), while eight of them were 36 +/- 0 wk pregnant and 15 of them 13 +/- 0 wk postpartum. HVR was low in the nonpregnant women (mean +/- SE shape parameter A = 23 +/- 8) but increased nearly fourfold with pregnancy (A = 87 +/- 17). The increase in HVR appeared to account for the 25% rise in resting ventilation with pregnancy (delta VE observed = 2.4 +/- 0.7 l/min BTPS vs. delta VE predicted from delta HVR = 2.6 +/- 1.7 l/min BTPS, P = NS). Hyperoxia decreased ventilation in the pregnant women (P less than 0.01) to levels similar to those measured when nonpregnant. The increased ventilation of pregnancy raised arterial O2 saturation (SaO2) from 83 +/- 1 to 87 +/- 0%, and SaO2 was correlated positively with HVR in the pregnant women. The rise in SaO2 compensated for a 0.9 g/100 ml decrease in hemoglobin concentration to preserve arterial O2 content at levels present when nonpregnant. Cardiac output in the 36th wk of pregnancy did not differ significantly from values measured postpartum. The increase in HVR correlated positively with infant birth weight. An increase in HVR may be an important contributor to increased maternal ventilation with pregnancy and infant birth weight at high altitude.
- Copyright © 1986 the American Physiological Society