Leptin, a recently discovered hormone that is involved in the regulation of body weight, appears to be one of the hormonal factors that signal the body's readiness for sexual maturation and reproduction to the brain. The present review focuses on clinical and experimental studies that describe the roles of maternal and foetal leptin as predictive factors for the physiological and pathophysiological development of the foetus during pregnancy, assisted reproduction and neonatal life. Through evaluating alterations of maternal serum leptin levels, a physiological hyperleptinaemia has been observed to occur, particularly during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, which is not associated with a decreased food intake or reduced metabolic activity in the pregnant women. This state of leptin resistance is comparable to the condition in obesity. In contrast, hypoleptinaemia is suggested to be an indicator for the cessation of pregnancy, either naturally at term or as a result of pathology at any time during gestation. Thus, an appropriate maternal leptin level seems to be a prerequisite for a normal pregnancy. The main source of foetal leptin is the still immature foetal adipose tissue. As intrauterine growth has been found to be independently associated with cord blood leptin level, it has been suggested that leptin plays a role as a regulator of foetal growth. During assisted reproduction cycles leptin levels in the follicular fluid of patients may be also of predictive value, with low levels predicting therapeutic failure. Finally, the relevance of leptin to postnatal development is reviewed; leptin may be important for regulation of satiety and peripheral metabolism. In summary, leptin appears to be an important permissive factor that is involved in female reproduction.