Thrombin Regulation in Mother and Fetus During Pregnancy
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Pregnancy is characterized by an increase in plasma concentration of several coagulants and with little or no change in plasma concentrations of inhibitors of thrombin or thrombin generation with the exception of a decrease in protein S. The net effect of these physiologic differences from nonpregnant adults is that, in vitro, thrombin generation is slightly increased in pregnancy plasma. Thrombin inhibition may be altered by the presence of circulating dermatan sulfate proteoglycan. Based on information on placental structure and function and ex vivo markers of thrombin generation, it is clear that there must be local generation of thrombin with fibrin deposition in the placenta. The roles of the alterations in the hemostatic system in regulating this increased thrombin activity remain to be elucidated. In addition, regulation of thrombin at the vessel wall of the placenta needs to be further explored, since it is likely important in preventing locally increased thrombin generation from producing systemic effects, that is, thrombosis. The fetal coagulation system is an immature, developing system, as is evident from low and gradually increasing plasma concentrations of both coagulants and inhibitors. Some of these low levels result from decreased gene expression in the immature liver. However, others (Factors II, VII and VIII) are related to other processes that remain to be determined. There is a progressive increase in the levels of these factors with increasing gestational age but most remain below adult values at term. As a result, thrombin generation and inhibition in vitro are decreased. Since bleeding and thrombotic complications are not a feature of normal fetal life, it is likely that the hemostatic system is balanced. In vivo data on thrombin generation and inhibition are lacking and the interaction of the physiologically different plasma of the fetus with the vessel wall is only now being explored.
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