To elucidate the possible involvement of nitric oxide (NO) in parturition, we measured the maternal plasma concentrations of the NO metabolites, atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) and guanosine 3',5'-cyclic phosphate (cGMP) in pregnant women at various gestational ages including those at vaginal and elective Caesarean deliveries. The plasma cGMP and NO metabolite concentrations at vaginal delivery were significantly lower than those of the pregnant women in the third trimester of pregnancy. These concentrations remained low until 4 h after delivery but returned 24 h after delivery to values similar to those of the non-pregnant women. Such suppressions of plasma cGMP and NO metabolite concentrations were not observed in the women who underwent elective Caesarean section before the onset of labour. Moreover, no significant changes were observed in the plasma ANP and BNP concentrations at the time of vaginal and Caesarean deliveries, except that a slight but significant elevation of the plasma ANP concentration was observed I h after Caesarean delivery. In conclusion, the plasma concentrations of cGMP and NO metabolites significantly decreased at vaginal delivery but not at Caesarean delivery. These changes were independent of the plasma ANP and BNP concentrations, suggesting the possible down-regulation of maternal NO synthesis during parturition.
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