Effect of Relaxin on Parturition in Ruminants
The biology of relaxin differs in many respects between ruminants and nonruminants. Immunoreactive blood concentration of circulating relaxin is much less in ruminant (cattle and sheep) than in nonruminant (pigs) farm animals. The ovaries of the pig produce abundant quantities of the hormone in late pregnancy, whereas tissue sources of relaxin are not clearly defined in sheep and cattle. Relaxin facilitates parturition by cervical dilation and pelvic canal expansion in several mammalian species. Relaxin injected intramuscularly during late pregnancy can cause earlier parturition in cattle, but in sheep limited evidence indicates it does not induce earlier delivery than seen in diluent-treated controls. Intravenous infusion of increasing dosages of relaxin in beef heifers the last days of pregnancy decreased plasma progesterone concentration compared with phosphate buffer controls, but oxytocin plasma concentrations remained similar throughout the posttreatment period. Although continuous intravenous infusion of relaxin depressed blood levels of progesterone, it did not result in earlier parturition than seen in the diluent treated controls. Thus, the timing and method of relaxin administration during late pregnancy in ruminants affect remodelling of collagen and pelvic canal relaxation and can result in earlier parturition.