Nongenetic Maternal Factors

There is a high correlation between birth weights of siblings that extends to cousins. The nongenetic, maternal nature of this effect is demonstrated by embryo transfer and cross-breeding experiments. For example, a small-breed embryo transplanted into a large-breed uterus will grow larger than a small-breed embryo remaining in a small-breed uterus. Furthermore, partial reduction in fetal number in a polytocous species such as the rat produces greater than normal birth weights in the remaining offspring. Conversely, embryo-transfer of a large-breed into a small-breed uterus will result in a newborn that is smaller than in its natural large-breed environment. Such evidence demonstrates that fetal growth is normally constrained, and that this constraint comes from the maternal environment. This is a physiological process and includes the maternal-specific capacity of uterine size, placental implantation surface area of the uterus, and uterine circulation, which together support the growth of the placenta and its function.

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