Size at birth is critical in determining life expectancy and is dependent primarily on the placental supply of nutrients. However, the fetus is not just a passive recipient of nutrients from the placenta. It exerts a significant acquisitive drive for nutrients, which acts through morphological and functional adaptations in the placenta, particularly when the genetically determined drive for fetal growth is compromised by adverse intrauterine conditions. These adaptations alter the efficiency with which the placenta supports fetal growth, which results in optimal growth for prevailing conditions in utero. This review examines placental efficiency as a means of altering fetal growth, the morphological and functional adaptations that influence placental efficiency and the endocrine regulation of these processes.