Developmental aspects of early pregnancy in mares
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In mares, the embryo migrates to the uterus between days 5 and 6 postovulation beginning its mobility through all uterine segments, which is essential for the maternal recognition of pregnancy. During the mobility phase, the embryonic vesicle shows a linear growth rate until its fixation between days 15 and 17, when the orientation phenomenon occurs. From fixation to day 28 of pregnancy, the embryonic growth is less evident (plateau) by cross-section ultrasound examination. After this period the linear growth rate is reestablished until day 46. This plateau is attributed to the increased uterine tone that compresses the vesicle and to volume expansion, making it difficult to detect the conceptus growth only by the cross-section diameter. Around day 20, the embryo proper is visualized as an echogenic spot in the ventral aspect of the vesicle. Additionally, development of allantoic sac, embryonic heartbeat, yolk sac regression and posterior umbilical cord formation also can be visualized from days 20 to 40. An intimate interaction between uterus and conceptus is essential for the normal pregnancy development. Color-and spectral-Doppler ultrasonography can be useful for the evaluation of this interface. A gradual increase on uterine vascularity during the early pregnancy and transient changes in endometrial vascularity accompanying the vesicle location during the mobility phase have been described. Around day 38 of gestation, the formation of the endometrial cups begins and, consequently, the synthesis of the equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG) induces the formation and development of supplementary corpora lutea, which are important to secrete progesterone and to maintain pregnancy until around day 120.