The synthetic progestagen, medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), was administered to sows in late pregnancy with the objective of slightly delaying the time of farrowing and thereby providing more marked associations between hormonal changes and the termination of pregnancy, and the initiation of farrowing and lactation in this species.
MPA was administered orally (140 mg, twice daily) to eight sows in late pregnancy on days 112, 113 and 114 of gestation. Parturition was then induced to occur on day 116 by injecting 200 μg cloprostenol i.m. on day 115 of gestation. The peripartum changes in the plasma concentrations of progesterone, cortisol, oestradiol-17β, relaxin, prolactin, lactose and 13,14-dihydro-15-keto prostaglandin F2α (PGFM) were measured in these sows together with a group of untreated sows. The gestational length for the MPA-treated sows (116·3 ± 0·3 days, mean±s.e.m.) was significantly (P<0·01) greater compared with the untreated sows (114·9 ± 0·3 days). Plasma progesterone declined earlier (P<0·05) with respect to the time of parturition in the treated sows compared with the untreated group. With respect to the timing of parturition, the time at which maximal concentrations of relaxin were attained and the timing of the subsequent decline were earlier in the MPA-treated sows. In both groups of sows, the concentration of relaxin increased before the decline in plasma progesterone. In the untreated sows, the concentration of PGFM increased either slightly before or at the same time as the decline in plasma progesterone, whereas in sows treated with MPA, progesterone concentrations began to decline before any significant increase in the plasma concentration of PGFM. The profiles of cortisol, oestradiol-17β and PGFM were similar in both groups of sows. In both groups of sows, the timing of the initial increase in the concentration of plasma prolactin coincided with a similar rise in plasma lactose (P<0·01). Plasma progesterone either declined earlier or at the same time as the rise in plasma lactose (P<0·01) in the treated group of sows only.
We conclude that since the prepartum changes in the concentration of progesterone and relaxin occurred before significant changes in the concentration of PGFM in the MPA-treated sows, the nature of the luteolytic factor and the mechanism by which it exerts its action remains obscure. The higher concentration of lactose in the mammary secretion at birth in the MPA-treated sows compared with the untreated group suggested that lactogenesis was initiated earlier with respect to parturition following MPA treatment. Furthermore, the administration of MPA to sows in late pregnancy delayed the onset of parturition but did not inhibit lactogenesis.