Placental growth factor (PlGF) is an increasingly important molecule in the prediction, diagnosis and treatment of pre-eclampsia. It has pro-angiogenic effects on the feto-placental circulation and supports trophoblast growth. Mechanisms by which PlGF expression is regulated continue to be investigated. Low circulating PlGF precedes the manifestation of clinical disease in preeclamptic pregnancies and intrauterine growth restriction. This suggests that low PlGF is a marker of abnormal placentation, but it remains uncertain whether this is a cause or consequence. Prediction of pre-eclampsia using PlGF is promising and may assist in the targeting of resources to women at highest risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Promisingly, experimental animal models of preeclampsia have been successfully treated with supplemental PlGF. Treatment of pre-eclampsia with PlGF is a potential therapeutic option requiring further exploration. This review focuses specifically on the role of PlGF in normal and pathological placental development and in the clinical management of pre-eclampsia.