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Pregnancy and its duration

Saluna Pokhrel Roll no: 22 9th semester, B.V.Sc & AH

Farm animals are viviparous, they complete their embryonic and fetal development within the uterus. The period of intrauterine development from the time of fertile mating to the parturition is termed as pregnancy. It is also

called as gestation. Duration of pregnancy is genetically determined although it can be modified by maternal, fetal, genetic and environmental factors. The duration of pregnancy differs with species as: cattle (9 months 9 days), buffalo (10 months 10 days), sheep (5 months 5 days), goat (5 months + 5 days), pig (3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days), horse (11 months 11 days), dog (2 months 2 days), rabbit (1 month 2days). Changes in reproductive organs includes, highly edematous and vascular vulva in later stage of pregnancy, closed cervix, enlargement of the uterus, persistence of corpus luteum and relaxation of pelvic ligaments. Pregnancy is maintained by the increased level of progesterone and reduced level of estrogen. Fetus is nourished by maternal environment through placenta whose size and function changes continuously during the course of pregnancy.

Key words: Pregnancy, Gestation, Corpus luteum, Progesterone, Estrogen

Pregnancy or gestation is the period

from fertilization or conception, to parturition or birth of the young.

During this period single cells divide

and develop into highly organized individuals.


Female reproductive tract


Stages of pregnancy
Period of ovum or blastula
Period of embryo and organogenesis Period of fetus and fetal growth

Period of the ovum or blastula

10-12 days in the cow. Division or cleavage of the fertilised ovum. Progresses in the region of ampullary-isthmic junction of the oviduct to the morula stage. Morula enters the uterus and forms blastocyst. Defective ova die and are absorbed. CL is developing. Progesterone is increasing.

Period of embryo and organogenesis

12-15 days to about 45 days in cow.
With the rapid genetic encoding, major tissues and

organs systems are formed. Species of the embryo is readily recognizable at the end of this period. Trophoblast extends very rapidly and extends into the opposite horn by 19 days. Embryo may die, be expelled unnoticed at the next estrum, or become macerated and absorbed without external signs.

Period of fetus and fetal growth

34 days in sheep and dog, 45 days in cattle, 55 days in

horse to parturition. Differentiation and growth of organs, tissues and systems . Caruncles and cotyledons develop and enlarge to supply nutrition to the fetus. From 210-270 days, increase in weight of the bovine fetus is equal to 3 times from the time of fertilization to 210 days.

Duration of pregnancy
Animal Cattle Buffalo Sheep Length 9 months 9 days 10 months 10 days 5 months 5 days

Pig Horse Dog

5 months + 5 days
3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days 11 months 11 days 2 months 2 days

Llama Human

1 month 2 days
11 months (350 days) 259-294 days

Factors affecting duration of pregnancy

Variation in gestation length

Maternal factor 1. Age of dam

Fetal factors 1. Litter size 2. Sex of fetus 3. Pitutary and adrenal functions Genetic factors 1. Species, breed 2. Fetal genotype

Environmental factors 1. Nutrition 2. Temperature 3. Season


Maternal recognition of pregnancy

It is the process whereby luteolysis is prevented by

the presence of the conceptus which prolongs progesterone secretion for the maintenance of pregnancy.
In ruminants, the trophoblast of the developing

conceptus blocks luteal regression by the production of interferons (IFNs).

In pigs, production of estrogen by the blastocyst was

thought to be the signal controlling MRP.


Reproductive organ changes

Vulva and vaginal Vulva becomes highly edematous and vascular. Vaginal mucosa is pale and dry.
Cervix Tight closure of the external os by highly viscid mucus seal.

Gradual enlargement but the myometrium remains


Reproductive organ changes contd

Ovary CL verum persists, as a result estrous cycles are suspended. These follicles lutenize to form accessory corpora lutea which regress by 7th month of pregnancy.
Pelvic ligaments Relaxation of the pelvic ligaments. Caudal part of the sacrosciatic ligament is cordlike in the non-pregnant but becomes more relaxed and flaccid as parturition approaches.

Mammary gland development

Development of mammary gland starts before puberty. During puberty, cyclic ovarian activity results in the production

of E2 and P4 .
During 1st half of pregnancy, cellular proliferation of the

mammary duct and alveoli occurs under the influence of the steroid hormones, P4 and E2 from ovaries and placenta.
By 5th month of pregnancy, growth of secretory tissue is nearly

By the end of pregnancy, stromal tissue is changed to alveolar

cells that actively secretes milk.


Pregnancy diagnosis
Rectal palpation
Hormonal measurement Early pregnancy-associated protein

Ultrasound examination


Location of pregnant uterus

In heifers

Lies in pelvic cavity until 3-4 months of pregnancy.

In older cows

Non-pregnant uterus lies on or over the pelvic brim. Drops into abdomen even before 2 months of pregnancy.

In all ages of animals

Uterus lies on the floor of the abdominal cavity after the 4th month of pregnancy. By 5th-6th months of pregnancy, uterus is drawn well forward and downward in the abdominal cavity, so that only the cervix and uterine vessels are palpated per rectum. By 6th-7th months, fetus is large enough to be palpated per rectum. By 8th-9th months, fetal nose and feet are palpated.

Hormones of pregnancy

During the normal course of pregnancy, the decline in progesterone begins one to two days prior to parturition.

Hormones of pregnancy

Promotes development of endometrial glands. Maintains uterine quiescence. Modify behaviour. Development of lobular alveolar growth.

Primes tissues for progesterone

Epithelial proliferation Smooth muscle hypertrophy

Glycogen deposition Vascularization Uterine metabolism


Hormones of pregnancy

Only in mare (eCG) supports development of

follicles for the formation of secondary CL.


Maintenance of CL function.
Further supported by prolactin and choriomammotropins.

Hormones of pregnancy
Low in early pregnancy
Unknown origin

Suspected placenta

Produced by regressing CL and placenta at the end of pregnancy to relax pubic symphysis and pelvic

ligaments Needs potentiation by estrogens


Hormones of pregnancy
Triggers production of PGF2 Stimulates smooth muscle contractility

Uterine motility
For sperm transport For fetal expulsion


Placenta is an apposition or fusion of the fetal

membranes to the endometrium to permit physiological exchange between fetus and mother.
It is attached to the embryo by a cord of blood vessel. The size and functions of the placenta change

continuously during the course of pregnancy and the organ is eventually expelled.


Fetal membranes of farm animals

Membrane Yolk sac Amnion Allantois Origin Early entodermal layer Cavitation from inner cell mass Diverticulum of hindgut Functions Vestigeal Encloses fetus in fluid-filled cavity Blood vessels connect fetal with placental circulation Fuses with chorion to form the choriallantoic placentation Encloses embryo and other fetal membranes Intimately associated with lining of uterus to form placenta


Trophoblastic capsule of blastocyst

Types of placenta


Abnormalities of pregnancy


Early embryonic death Hydrocephalus



Abnormalities of pregnancy contd

Fetal ascites

Fetal anasarca
Dropsy of fetus

Uterine torsion
Paraplegia Premature birth

Prolonged gestation



Aborted fetus

Complete maceration of 6-7 months

Complete maceration of 8th month

Still birth, Abortion

Llama placenta fetus umbilicus torsion


Arthur, G.H. 1997. Veterinary reproduction and

obsterics. The ELBS and Bailliere Tindall (4th Edition). Hafez, E.S.E. 1997. Reproduction in farm animals. Lea and Febiger Philadelphia (6th Edition). bih=666&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=pregnant%2Fanimals&bt nG=Search
Robert, S.J. 1971. Veterinary obstetrics and genital

diseases. CBS Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi (2nd Edition).



What is pseudopregnancy?

Ans: Pseudopregnancy is the condition where animal shows signs and behaviour similar to the pregnant animals when it is not pregnant in actual. It is more common in bitches. Bitch has very long metestrus period i.e. p4 level remains high for long period almost equal to the length of gestation. Due to this, bitch shows the behavioural signs of pregnancy like enlargement of teats, swollen abdomen etc. swollen abdomen may be due to accumulation of uterine milk.

What is the difference between conception gestation

and pregnancy? Ans : Conception is the onset of pregnancy, marked by implantation of the blastocyst; the formation of a viable zygote where pregnancy and gestation are the synonyms and it is the period from fertilization or conception, to parturition or birth of the young.


In which stage does hydrocephalous occurs?

Ans: Hydrocephalous is the condition where there is swelling of cranium due to accumulation of fluid in ventricular system or between brain and dura. It occurs during the stage- period of fetus and fetal growth but the fluid increases in late gestation.


What are the methods of pregnancy diagnosis?

Ans: Rectal palpation

Hormonal measurement Early pregnancy-associated protein Ultrasound examination