In summary, fetal swallowing activity contributes importantly to fetal and amniotic fluid homeostasis, and fetal somatic and gastrointestinal development. Human and ovine fetal swallowing increases throughout gestation with fetal swallowed volumes markedly greater (relative to body weight) than adults. Although the regulation of swallowing activity in early gestation is unknown, intact central and systemic dipsogenic mechanisms have been shown during the last third of ovine gestation. Recent studies suggest that swallowing behavior may be modulated in accordance with neurobehavioral state changes and influenced by hypoxia, hypotension and plasma osmolality changes. Whether fetal swallowing also is regulated by the development of 'hunger' sensation, salt appetite, or the development of taste is uncertain. Nevertheless, it is likely that, for species in which swallowing behavior develops in utero, there are potentially dramatic influences of the maternal- fetal pregnancy environment on the imprinting of regulatory mechanisms controlling ingestive behavior. Ultimately, the regulation of fetal swallowing may aid in the prevention and/or therapy of human amniotic fluid disorders.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Obstetrics and Gynecology