We measured the cord levels of gastrin, somatostatin and oxytocin with radioimmunoassay in plasma collected from the umbilical artery after vaginal delivery and after elective cesarean section. Maternal venous samples after the two labour modalities were also assayed for the same hormones. Fetal gastrin, somatostatin and oxytocin levels were significantly higher after vaginal delivery than after elective cesarean section. Independently of labour type, the fetal gastrin and somatostatin levels were always higher than the maternal levels. We suggest that the observed high levels of gastrin, somatostatin and oxytocin could be due to a stress-related stimulation of the oxytocin- as well as of the gastric gastrin- and somatostatin-producing cells, occurring particularly during vaginal delivery. The significant inverse correlation found between fetal pH and the recorded hormone levels is consistent with this hypothesis.