An increasing number of diseases in child and adult life are now thought to have their origins in the fetal period. Central to this predisposition is restriction of fetal growth. During the period reviewed in this article, the associations between adult hypertension and low birthweight were confirmed, and numerous studies have investigated possible mechanisms by which the metabolism of an individual may be programmed by an adverse intrauterine environment. The consequences in adult life of intrauterine undernutrition now highlight prenatal care as one of the most crucial issues in medicine and challenge many aspects of current obstetric decision-making. Research targeting fetal growth and developmant can be expected to result in improved health at all ages.