It is now accepted that local changes to the balance of Th1/Th2-type cytokines occur during pregnancy within the maternal uterus and fetoplacental unit. These changes in cytokine profiles contribute to implantation of the embryo, development of the placenta, and survival of the fetus to term. Overall within the placenta there is a bias in the ratio of Th1:Th2 cytokines towards the Th2-type cytokines. However, there are specific fluctuations in this balance at implantation and during the initiation of parturition. The predominant cytokines at each stage of gestation function both to limit maternal immune rejection of the semi-allogeneic embryo/fetus, especially at the maternofetal interface; and to facilitate the on-going physiological processes within the maternal reproductive tract. These two, at times conflicting, roles are discussed in this review, with key evidence concerning cytokine expression and function from mouse and humans.
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