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CL Gilbert, TH Burne, JA Goode, PJ Murfitt and SL Walton

In the pig, nest building occurs in the day preceding parturition (gestation=114--116 days). Nest building behaviour can be induced in pregnant, pseudopregnant and cyclic female pigs following injection of prostaglandin F2alpha. Here we investigated behaviour and endocrine changes after the administration of indomethacin, which inhibits cyclo-oxygenase enzymes and thus prostaglandin synthesis. In experiment 1, pregnant primiparous pigs (gilts) were blood sampled through jugular vein catheters every 20 min from 1000 h on day 113 of pregnancy and behaviour was recorded until birth. Two hours after pre-partum nest building began, animals received 4 mg/kg indomethacin (n=7) or control vehicle (n=8) intramuscularly. Indomethacin-treated animals showed less nest building than controls between 1 and 5 h after injection (P<0.05), during which time they were mostly inactive and lay down for longer than controls. From 5 h before birth until birth there was no significant treatment difference in nest building behaviour. There was a tendency for the start of birth to be delayed in indomethacin-treated animals. Plasma 13,14-dihydro-15-keto-prostaglandin F2 alpha (a major metabolite of prostaglandin F2 alpha) rose during pre-injection nest building and then fell following indomethacin treatment, but was not significantly different between groups when behaviour differed. Plasma oxytocin, cortisol and progesterone were not significantly affected by treatment. In experiment 2, indomethacin-treated non-pregnant gilts (n=7) did not show any changes in activity or posture compared with vehicle-treated controls (n=6) between 90 and 150 min after treatment. These results suggested that indomethacin treatment reversibly and specifically inhibits porcine pre-partum nest building by a mechanism that may involve endogenous prostaglandin F2 alpha synthesis inhibition but is independent of circulating oxytocin, cortisol and progesterone concentrations.

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S Jarvis, AB Lawrence, KA McLean, J Chirnside, LA Deans, SK Calvert, CL Gilbert, JA Goode and ML Forsling

Oxytocin plays an important role at parturition due to its involvement in uterine contractions, foetal expulsion and the onset of maternal behaviour. The role of the related neurohypophysial hormone, vasopressin, is less clear; however, there is some evidence that it is also involved in maternal behaviour and its role in osmotic regulation is well established. The aim of this study was to investigate the inhibitory effects of endogenous opioids on these hormones during the expulsive phase of parturition in the pig, and to examine how opioid restraint interacts with environmental restriction. The subjects of this study were 31 Large Whitex Landrace primiparous sows (gilts). An indwelling jugular catheter was implanted under general anaesthesia at 12 days before the expected parturition day (EPD). From 5 days before the EPD 15 of the gilts were individually housed in a restrictive parturition crate without straw and 16 were individually housed in a straw-bedded pen. Blood samples were taken with increasing frequency towards and during parturition through a catheter extension to reduce disturbance. At 7.5 min after the birth of the first piglet half of the gilts in each environment received a dose of the opioid receptor antagonist naloxone (1 mg/kg, i.v.) with the remaining gilts receiving saline as a control. Overall, there was no effect of environment on either circulating oxytocin or vasopressin. However, both oxytocin and vasopressin were inhibited by endogenous opioids during the expulsive phase. The inhibitory effects of opioids on these hormones did not appear to have any adverse effects on the progress of parturition as judged by cumulative piglet birth intervals. The regulation of the opioid inhibition of oxytocin and vasopressin during parturition is discussed in relation to other neurotransmitters and whether opioid inhibition of these neurohypophysial hormones is part of the 'normal' physiological response to parturition or whether it is stress-induced.