This study examined changes in cholesterol, triglycerides, body weight, and blood pressure during pregnancy in 312 diabetic and 356 control women recruited within 21 days after conception. Cholesterol values rose in both groups but were significantly lower in diabetic women at each time point (166 vs 178 mg/dl at week 12, p = 0.0004). Triglyceride values also rose in both groups. Triglyceride levels did not differ between groups up to week 8 of gestation, but by weeks 10 to 12 they were significantly lower in diabetic women than in controls (75 vs 89 mg/dl at week 12, p = 0.0004). Although they were no heavier at entry, diabetic women gained significantly more weight between weeks 6 and 8 (p less than 0.001), resulting in a mean difference between groups of 1 kg. Systolic blood pressure increased steadily and significantly in the diabetic but not the control women (115.8 +/- 16.2 SD vs 109.3 +/- 11.8 mm Hg, p = 0.0006 at term). Diastolic blood pressure was higher in diabetic women on entry (70.7 vs 67.3 mm Hg, p = 0.0006) and throughout gestation. Significant correlations were found in the diabetic group between maternal blood pressure and lipids and infant birth weight. These newly found differences in cholesterol and triglyceride levels, weight gain, and blood pressure between type I diabetic and control women during gestation may have long-term cardiovascular implications.