The endocrine profile (umbilical venous plasma) of three groups of infants was compared. Samples were taken after eight vaginal deliveries, 11 emergency caesarean sections during labour, and 13 elective caesarean sections before labour. Mean umbilical plasma concentrations of thyroxine and triiodothyronine were significantly higher and cortisol concentration were lower after elective caesarean section compared with the two labour groups. Mean umbilical plasma thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) concentration was significantly lower after vaginal delivery compared with elective caesarean section. These results suggest that labour reduces plasma thyroid hormone concentrations at birth in association with a rise in cortisol. These adaptations may be the stimulus for the subsequent surge in triiodothyronine previously reported to occur over the first few hours after birth in vaginally delivered infants.
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