An investigation to determine whether there is any relationship between extremes of fetal heart rate during labour and subsequent heart rate at the age of 10 was carried out using data from the 1970 cohort of British Births. In 11,000 nationally representative children it was found that low fetal heart rate (below 120 beats/min) was associated with a heart rate at age 10 which was significantly lower than in those children whose fetal heart rate had remained between 120 and 160 beats/min (P less than 0.01). This relationship could not be explained by fetal asphyxiation, maternal antenatal hypotension or the method of pain relief during labour. There was no equivalent relationship with high fetal heart rate during labour. This could imply that some fetuses with low heart rates are not exhibiting fetal distress but have an inherent tendency to relatively slow heart rates.