Recently developed, assisted reproductive technologies (e.g., in vitro embryo production and nuclear transfer) have encountered perinatal morbidity/mortality of the offspring produced, which are likely to hinder the application of these techniques. Consequently we have sought to develop a system of hormonal stimulation that will ensure the delivery of offspring more prepared for extrauterine life. Here we examine deliveries outcome in sheep carrying in vitro-produced and nuclear transfer (NT) embryos in comparison to artificially inseminated and naturally mated control ewes. All groups (excluding NT, which received one treatment) were subjected to one of two hormonal treatments for induction of delivery, whereas the third part of each group was left without any treatment. The first (commonly used for naturally mated ewes) dexamethasone treatment did not solve a majority of parturition disturbances, and actually the number of deliveries necessitating assistance was reduced (P < 0.05) by this treatment in the control group. On the other hand, combined estradiol plus betamethasone stimulation (E B) solved a majority of complications regarding delivery performance such as lack of the preparation of the mammary gland, low myometrial contractility, insufficient cervical ripening, and impaired maternal behavior. Moreover, substantial reduction of neonatal mortality was observed following the combined treatment. In conclusion, the E B induction of delivery overcame the majority of physiological and behavioral intrapartum failures of sheep foster mothers and increased the survival of offspring, and thus can be recommended as a safe method for inducing delivery in foster mothers carrying in vitro-generated embryos.
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