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IC McMillen, MB Adams, JT Ross, CL Coulter, G Simonetta, JA Owens, JS Robinson and LJ Edwards

A range of pathophysiological factors can result in a perturbation or restriction of fetal growth, and the cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and metabolic adaptations of the fetus to these stimuli will depend on their nature, timing and intensity. The critical importance of these physiological adaptations for both immediate survival and long-term health outcomes has provided an impetus for experimental studies of the nature and consequences of specific fetal adaptations to a poor intrauterine environment. This review summarizes data from recent studies that have focused on the responses of the fetal cardiovascular, sympathoadrenal, hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal and renin-angiotensin systems to experimental restriction of placental function in the sheep and discusses the consequences of these adaptations for fetal, neonatal and adult health.