The purpose of this investigation was to determine the effects of cycle exercise on maternal plasma volume (PV) and protein dynamics during pregnancy. Sixteen healthy gravidas (age = 23 +/- 4.6 yr) cycled for 5 min (75 W) at 4 wk intervals throughout term. Venous blood samples were drawn immediately prior to and during the last minute of exercise. Relative (percent) PV changes during exercise were calculated from hematocrit ratios and hemoglobin concentrations. Plasma was analyzed for total protein ([TP]) and albumin ([ALB]) concentrations and colloid osmotic pressure (COP). Resting blood volumes were also estimated (carbon monoxide rebreathing) so that absolute PV (ml) and TP and ALB contents (g) could be determined. COP increases (P less than 0.001) during exercise were similar at all gestational ages. Plasma volume, TP, and ALB decreased during exercise with significantly (P less than 0.001) greater losses occurring from 29-32 wk gestation. This may indicate an increase in capillary permeability to large molecules when vascular volume was highest.