Respiratory frequency, tidal volume, minute ventilation, oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production, and end-tidal carbon dioxide tension were measured longitudinally during pregnancy and post partum in 20 normal subjects with a computer-assisted mass spectrometer. Resting tidal volume, minute ventilation, oxygen consumption, and carbon dioxide production increased during pregnancy. End-tidal carbon dioxide tension fell progressively during pregnancy. Respiratory exchange ratio was 0.9 at 36 to 39 weeks' gestation and 0.8 at 5-13 weeks post partum. Respiratory frequency did not change during pregnancy. The increase in minute ventilation is in excess of the increase of carbon dioxide production and the resultant fall in end-tidal carbon dioxide tension reflects a fall in systemic arterial blood carbon dioxide tension. The greater respiratory exchange ratio during late pregnancy as compared with post partum also reflects this hyperventilation during pregnancy. Fourteen subjects with pregnancy-induced hypertension studied cross-sectionally failed to show any difference in the respiratory variables measured when compared with normotensive subjects at a similar length of gestation. (AM J OBSTET GVNECOL 1990;162:826-30.)

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