Despite the importance of placental function in embryonic development, it remains poorly understood and challenging to characterize, primarily due to the lack of non-invasive imaging tools capable of monitoring placental and foetal oxygenation and perfusion parameters during pregnancy. We developed an optoacoustic tomography approach for real-time imaging through entire ~4 cm cross-sections of pregnant mice. Functional changes in both maternal and embryo regions were studied at different gestation days when subjected to an oxygen breathing challenge and perfusion with indocyanine green. Structural phenotyping of the cross-sectional scans highlighted different internal organs, whereas multi-wavelength acquisitions enabled non-invasive label-free spectroscopic assessment of blood-oxygenation parameters in foeto-placental regions, rendering a strong correlation with the amount of oxygen administered. Likewise, the placental function in protecting the embryo from extrinsically administered agents was substantiated. The proposed methodology may potentially further serve as a probing mechanism to appraise embryo development during pregnancy in the clinical setting.

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