AIMS: To investigate whether the lipid profile of pregnant women during parturition differs from the profile at previous stages of pregnancy and to determine the effects of maternal lipid changes on fetal or neonatal haemorheology. METHODS: Sixty pregnant women were studied, divided into two groups. Group 1 contained 30 women of mean age of 27 (SD 3) years and gestational age > 38 weeks in whom delivery had not yet begun; all these pregnancies followed an uncomplicated course and there was no evidence of any fetal pathology from previous obstetric examinations. All the women reached term and birth weight was 3340 (350) g. Group 2 contained women of mean age 26 (4) years, in whom delivery was ongoing, all of whose pregnancies reached term. The following variables were determined in all cases: total cholesterol, triglycerides, high density lipoproteins (HDL), low density lipoproteins (LDL), free fatty acids and phospholipids, and apoprotein A (apo-A) and apoprotein B (apo-B). Serum and plasma viscosity was measured with a capillary viscosimeter. RESULTS: The apo-B/apo-A and HDL/apo-A ratios increased during delivery, indicating that in pregnant women these atherogenic indices are raised during delivery compared with previous gestational stages. Significant correlation coefficients were obtained between maternal lipids (triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL, total cholesterol/HDL, and LDL/HDL) and plasma viscosity in the neonate. CONCLUSIONS: Plasma atherogenic indices increase progressively until birth. These changes have implications for neonatal haemorheology because they cause an increase in plasma viscosity.