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Parturition in Domestic Animals

Head, Department of Veterinary Gynecology and Obstetrics,
College of Veterinary and Animal Science, Rajasthan University
of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Bikaner, Rajasthan, India
Parturition: Delivery of fetus through the birth canal on
completion of gestation period

• Birth canal is formed by the uterus, cervix and vagina within

the pelvic bones and their attachments

• The muscular canal that forms from the uterus to the outside
of the body through which the fetus passes
during birth.
Pre-parturient Care
Shifting to calving boxes 1-2 months before calving
Mares need a quiet environment
Feeding Cows should be given a low energy high fiber diet
during gestation and anionic salts should be given if
they are fed fodder to which high K+ fertilizer has been added
Sheep twin fetus carrying animals should be fed high
energy feed.
Bitches 1.0 to 1.8% Ca and 0.8-1.6 % P in diet of late
pregnant bitches
Vaccines Tetanus vaccination of foaling mares
Vaccination of pregnant bitches
•Never use a live vaccine in a pregnant bitch: only use registered
'safe' killed vaccines and registered 'safe' intranasal vaccines.

Keep up to date with live vaccines in non-pregnant bitches to avoid

having to give vaccines to pregnant bitches.
• Killed parvovirus vaccines can be given 2 weeks or more
before the pups are due to be born (they should not be given
any closer to the time of birth than this) to increase the levels
of parvovirus antibodies in the colostrum. Maternal antibody
levels may persist in these antibody-enriched pups for up to
14 weeks and, depending on the vaccine type being given to
these pups, they may require preventative vaccinations for
up to 16-18 weeks of age before they are considered safe to
• Newer vaccines are now available that overcome this
issue of maternal immunity, achieving full protection within
12 weeks of age.

• If using vaccination therapeutically, in order to achieve

high levels of immunoglobulin's (antibodies)in the
colostrum, vaccinate the pregnant bitch 2-3 weeks before
the pups are due to be born.
Vaccination of pregnant mares
•Vaccinations should be current, since infectious diseases can trigger abortions.

•It is recommended that mares be vaccinated against EHV-1 in the 5th, 7th and 9th
month of her pregnancy. In higher risk situations first Rhinopneumonitis
immunization be given at 3 months. Currently, there are two killed virus vaccines
approved for use in pregnant mares to prevent EHV-1 abortion: Pneumabort-K®
(Fort Dodge Animal Health, Ft. Dodge, IA) and Prodigy® (Intervet, Inc., Millsboro,
• Pregnant mares previously vaccinated against tetanus: Vaccinate
annually 4 to 6 weeks before foaling, both to protect the mare
should foaling-induced trauma or retained placenta occur and to
enhance concentrations of colostral immunoglobulins.

• Pregnant mares unvaccinated against tetanus or of unknown

vaccinal history: Administer a 2-dose primary series of tetanus
toxoid with a 4- to 6-week interval between doses. Revaccinate 4
to 6 weeks before foaling.
• TT 25-40 Lf Units IM
Sheep and goats
• Pregnant ewes should be vaccinated for clostridial diseases (usually clostridium
perfringins type C & D and tetanus) 4 to 6 weeks prior to parturition.

• Vaccinated females will pass antibodies in their colostrum to their newborn lambs via
the colostrum. Ewes that have never been vaccinated or whose vaccination status is
unknown will require two vaccinations during late gestation, 4 weeks apart. Ewes
should not be vaccinated within two weeks of lambing. This is not enough time to get
antibodies in the colostrum.

• If the dam was not vaccinated for tetanus, the tetanus

Antitoxin should be given at the time of docking.
Can pregnant cows be dewormed?

• In the vast majority of cases, it is safe to deworm pregnant cattle. ...

There are a few exceptions; an example is albendazole (Valbazen),
which restricts use in cattle during the first 45 days of pregnancy.
• Pyrantel pamoate is safe to use in pregnancy and lactation and is
frequently used in these situations to minimize the
worm burdens of neonatal animals.
Deworming mares
• Most commercially available dewormers are safe for use in pregnant mares,
however, it is always recommended to check the product label before
administering a dewormer or any other product to a pregnant mare.

• Last treatment should occur 4-6 weeks before her due date

• Many vets suggest to administer ivermectin

• dewormer to the mare within 12 h or foaling
• to avoid the passage of strongyles in milk that
• may cause diarrhea in new born foals.
• Deworm the bitch prior to mating and then at 5 weeks and 8
weeks gestation. Make sure you use a good quality wormer
that is SAFE for pregnant/lactating bitches.

• Fenbendazole is considered a safe dewormer against

roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and giardia. This may
not stop the puppies from getting worms,
but at least It may decrease the amount
Sheep and goats
• It is a good idea to feed a coccidiostat to ewes during late gestation.
All sheep have coccidia in their GI tracts. Coccidiostats disrupt the life
cycle of coccidia; therefore, feeding a coccidiostat will reduce the
number of coccidia oocytes being shed into the lambing environment.
• Deworming with an effective anthelmintic will help the ewe expel the
worms and reduce the exposure of
newborn lambs to infective worm larvae.
Albendazole should not be given to pregnant
ewes during first trimester of pregnancy.
Symptoms of approaching parturition
Cow Udder enlargement 4 months in heifers and
1-2 weeks before parturition in cows
Vaginal discharge 7 months
Relaxed ligaments 24 - 48 h prepartum, raised
tail head, anorexia,
Bitch Vomition, drop in 1-20 rectal temp 24 h
prepartum, nesting behavior.
Mare Drop in mammary secretion electrolytes
Waxing of teats
Symptoms of approaching Parturition
Theories of parturition initiation
Physical factors 1. Increase in fetal size: this increases uterine
2. Uterine distension : reversal of progesterone block
3. Fatty degeneration of placenta and presence of
leads to interference in fetal nutrition
Biochemical factors:
1. Increase in CO2 tension in maternal blood due to
increased fetal activity: this ↑uterine contractility
2. Release of fetal antigens:→serotonin →release of
collagenase and stoppage of
blood supply to cotyledons.
Neuroendocrine factors: FETAL factors
1. ↑ in cortisol in adrenals→convert P4 to E2 &
release of PG
2. ↑ in ACTH by pituitary →stimulate cortisol
3. ↑ in CRH in hypothalamus →stimulate ACTH
4. ↑ in endogenous opiods →stimulate ACTH
MATERNAL factors
1. Reversal of P4 block → ↑ myometrial contactility
2. Release of relaxin → dilation of the birth canal
3. Placental estrogen rise →release of PG ↑ myometrial
4. Pro-inflamatory cytokines → dilation of the birth canal
5. Release of PG → softening of cervix, contractions ↑
6. Release of Oxytocin → ↑ myometrial contactions
Stage 1 (Initiation of Parturition)
Removal of Progesterone Block
Fetal Stress
Due increase in size and limited space How does progesterone secretion is inhibited?

Elevated cortisol promotes the synthesis of 3 enzymes

Release of pituitary ACTH
(adreno-corticotropic hormone) These 3 enzymes convert progesterone to estradiol
Adrenal Gland

Corticoids (cortisol)

1) Removal of progesterone block 17 hydoxylase 17-20 lyase Aromatase

2) Elevation of repro. tract secretion

Fetal hypothalamus
Possible endocrine changes that occur during the

Fetal Pituitary
periparturient period in the sow, ewe, cow and their effects


Fetal adrenal

Adrenal corticosteroids

Convert progesterone to estrogen ← Feto placental estrogens → Relaxin

↓ → →→ → →→→ → →→↓ Cervical softening

← ← ← ←

Cotyledons / Myometrium ↑
Proinflamatory cytokines

Luteolysis ← Release of PGF →oxytocin ↓
↓ ↓

Decrease in serum progesterone ↓
↓→ ↓ ↑ Abdominal contractions
Myometrial contractions → Fetal Expulsion


Fetal Nutritional
Nutritional CRH ACTH
Demands Anterior Adrenal
Pituitary Cortex
Fetal Corticosteroids
Lung Liver
Liver Thyroid
(surfactant) (glycogen)
(glycogen) (metabolism)
(metabolism) Placentome

Progesterone Estrogen PGF2

Uterine Myometrium
» Gap junctions
Uterine Endometrium
» Oxytocin receptors
PGF2 Oxytocin CL
Uterine Cervical
Cervical (CL)
Contractions Ripening
Ripening Relaxin
Final Role of
Sensory Neurons in Cervix
Sensory Neurons in Cervix

Oxytocin from
Posterior Pituitary

Orientation of Fetus
• Fetus must reorient prior to parturition
– Initially on back
– Reorient so feet and head will exit first
– Breech
• Rear of fetus comes first
• Orientation not important in pig
• Abnormal orientation results in dystocia
Fetal Orientation
Fetal Orientation
Placenta Fetal Circulatory
Umbilical Vein

Ductus Portal Vein

Venosus Liver

Vena Cava

Left Atrium Lungs Right Atrium

Head Ductus
and Aorta Arteriosus
Heart Tissues
Umbilical Arteries

Ductus Portal Vein

Venosus Liver

Vena Cava

Left Atrium Lungs Right Atrium

Head Ductus
and Aorta Arteriosus
Heart Tissues
Perinatal Fetal Changes
• Immune status
– Has no antibodies to protect
– Gets passive immunity from mother
• Gut permeable to antibodies in colostrum
• Only first 1 - 2 days
• Rabbit, rat, man get some antibodies absorbed
through placenta
Prepartum fetal changes:
Changes do occur in the fetus before delivery and these are essential because the
fetus has to prepare itself for the external environment outside the uterus. The
changes include
Maturation of fetal lungs: The surfactants in the lungs increase which reduce the
surface tension within the alveoli.
Increased output of tri-iodothyronine and catecholamines to meet the increased
metabolic demands
Closure of the ductus arteriosus and the closure of the foramen ovale
Increased glycogen reserves in the liver to meet the demands
on delivery by the production of glucose as a source of energy
post delivery.
Stages of Labor
• Preparative (2 to 12 hours) 1st stage
– Myometrial contractions
– Uterine pressure
– Abdominal discomfort
– Cervical dilation
– Appearance and rupture of first water bag
Stages of Labor
• Expulsion of fetus (30 to 180 min) (2nd stage)
– Strong uterine contractions
– Rupture of the allantochorion
– Appearance of the fetus wrapped in amnion
– Maternal recumbence and straining
– Not only uterine but abdominal contractions as well
– Rupture of the amnion and fetal delivery
Stages of Labor (cont.)
• Expulsion of the placenta (1 to 12 hours) and uterine involution
(3rd stage)
– Uterine contractions
– Chorionic villi loosen
– Expulsion of the placenta
– Delayed in ruminants due to presence of cotyledons separating
– Suckling induces oxytocin release which triggers
further uterine contractions
Duration of different stages of labor in domestic animals
Species First stage of labor Second stage Third stage (Placental
Cow 4-24 h (Bluish 0.5 – 3 h (Amnion appears with 12-16 h (Placenta is
vascular the fetus. Fetus is delivered) expelled)
appears & ruptures
Buffalo 1-12 h 45-90 min 7-12 h
Mare 1-12 h 30 min Within 3 h
Ewe/Do 6-12 h 0.5-1 h Within 3-6 h
Sow 12-24 h 0.5-4 h After 2-3 piglets or 4 h
post farrowing
Bitch 4-24 h 1st puppy within 2 h of 2nd stage After each puppy or
of labor. 5-60 min between within 2 h of last puppy
puppies. Total time upto 24 h
Cat 2-12 h 1st kitten within 5-60 min of Within 2 h of last kitten
labor. Subsequent kittens every
5-60 min
Camel 3-48 h 5-80 min Within 4 h
Sequence of parturition events in the cow
Parturition in the buffalo

Sequence of parturition events in the mare 2 second stage and 3

third stage
Stages of labor in a goat

1. The first water bag(allantochorion) is protruded

2. The second water bag (amnion) and the fetus are
protruding through the vulvar lips.
3. The placenta is being dropped in the third stage of labor
A pregnant cat about to kitten and a sow in delivery
Maternal behaviour
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