Stroke is an uncommon but increasingly recognised cause of mortality and long-term neurological morbidity in children. A significant number of these events appear to be caused by thromboembolic disease and, as with other childhood thrombotic problems, the incidence of central nervous system events appears highest during the neonatal period. In contrast to peripheral arterial and venous thrombotic problems, it is likely that a proportion of cerebral thromboembolic events occur either in utero or perinatally and reflect different risk factors from those occurring in older infants and children. The pathophysiology of perinatal stroke is complex and in many cases is likely to be multifactorial. It is now recognised that risk factors may relate to both maternal and placental problems as well as fetal and neonatal disorders. Large prospective studies of perinatal stroke are currently lacking and efforts to define the relative contribution from each of these areas are at an early stage. The complex nature of these disorders requires collaboration between a number of different disciplines including obstetrics, fetal medicine, pathology, neonatology and neurology. Of particular interest to haematologists is the possible impact of prothrombotic abnormalities in the pathophysiology of these events and also the potential for the use of antithrombotic agents in both management and prevention.