The temporal relationship between changes in cerebral Doppler flow velocity wave forms, ductal patency, blood gases, and blood pressure during the transition from intrauterine to newborn life was assessed longitudinally in 16 healthy term fetuses and newborns. Doppler flow velocity wave forms were obtained from fetal cerebral arteries (anterior cerebral, internal carotid, and basilar) before birth, within 8 h after birth, and again at 24 and 48 h after birth. The resistance index was used as a measure of vascular resistance. The resistance index of the cerebral arteries studied increased significantly between the antenatal and 8-h study periods. This was followed by a significant decrease below fetal levels by the 24-h study period, with little change thereafter. We conclude that in the newborn human, as in the newborn lamb, the transition from fetal to immediate newborn life is associated with an increase in cerebral vascular resistance and thus a decrease in cerebral blood flow in response to the increase in arterial oxygenation. The subsequent decrease in the cerebral resistance index between 8 and 24 h of life cannot be explained by a loss of ductal shunting nor by associated changes in newborn blood gases or blood pressure, but may rather reflect a remodeling of the circulation due to impedance matching.