Fetal alcohol syndrome is characterized by numerous nervous system anomalies with the developing hippocampus being highly vulnerable. Other conditions can result from maternal ethanol consumption including oxidative stress. Critical antioxidants, such as vitamin E, can be decreased and antioxidative defenses altered. Gestational day 18 rat hippocampal cultures were exposed to ethanol ranging from 400 to 2400 mg/dl (16 h). MTT assays assessed neurotoxicity. Viability was decreased dose dependently. Supplementation with vitamin E or beta-carotene afforded neuroprotection against all ethanol concentrations. Vitamin E completely ameliorated neuronal loss following 400 and 800 mg/dl ethanol. Vitamin E increased survival to 95%, 79%, 66%, and 75% during 1600, 1800, and 2000 and 2400 mg/dl ethanol compared to nonethanol treatment. Vitamin E increased viability by 38%, 23%, 12%, and 29% at 1600, 1800, 2000, and 2400 mg/dl compared to non-vitamin E-supplemented, ethanol treatment. beta-Carotene completely ameliorated cell loss from 400 mg/dl ethanol and increased survival by 18% at 1600 mg/dl and 12% at 2000 mg/dl. This study demonstrates in vitro antioxidative neuroprotection against developmental ethanol exposure and suggests that nutritional therapies incorporating antioxidants may help protect against deleterious fetal effects from maternal alcohol abuse.