Sex differences in uterine artery Doppler during gestation in pregnancies complicated by placental dysfunction

Leah Paranavitana, Melissa Walker, Anjana Ravi Chandran, Natasha Milligan, Shiri Shinar, Clare L. Whitehead, Sebastian R. Hobson, Lena Serghides, W. Tony Parks, Ahmet A. Baschat, Christopher K. Macgowan, John G. Sled, John C. Kingdom, Lindsay S. Cahill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: There is growing evidence of sex differences in placental vascular development. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of fetal sex on uterine artery pulsatility index (PI) throughout gestation in a cohort of normal and complicated pregnancies. Methods: A prospective longitudinal study was conducted in 240 pregnant women. Pulsed wave Doppler ultrasound of the proximal uterine arteries was performed at a 4-weekly interval between 14 and 40 weeks of gestation. The patients were classified retrospectively as normal or complicated (one or more of maternal preeclampsia, preterm birth, or small for gestational age). To assess if the change in uterine artery PI during gestation differed between normal and complicated pregnancies and between fetal sexes, the uterine artery PI was modeled using a linear function of gestational age and the rate of change was estimated from the slope. Results: While the uterine artery PI did not differ over gestation between females and males for normal pregnancies, the trajectory of this index differed by fetal sex for pregnancies complicated by either preeclampsia, preterm birth, or fetal growth restriction (p < 0.0001). The male fetuses in the complicated pregnancy group had an elevated slope compared to the other groups (p < 0.0001), suggesting a more progressive deterioration in uteroplacental perfusion over gestation. Conclusions: The uterine artery PI is widely used to assess uteroplacental function in clinical settings. The observation that this metric changes more rapidly in complicated pregnancies where the fetus was male highlights the importance of sex when interpreting hemodynamic markers of placental maturation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19
JournalBiology of Sex Differences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Doppler ultrasound
  • Fetal sex
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulsatility index
  • Sex differences
  • Uterine artery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Endocrinology


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