Experiments were conducted in 11 chronically catheterized pregnant sheep to determine the distribution of blood flow within the fetus during prolonged (48 hours) hypoxemia secondary to the restriction of uterine blood flow. Uterine blood flow was mechanically restricted with a polytetrafluoroethylene vascular clamp placed around the maternal common internal iliac artery such that mean (+/- SEM) fetal arterial oxygen tension decreased from 23.4 +/- 1.9 to 17.3 +/- 0.8 mm Hg at 1 hour of hypoxemia and remained low for 48 hours. There was an initial increase in fetal arterial carbon dioxide pressure from 48.5 +/- 0.9 mm Hg during the control period to 56.2 +/- 2.3 mm Hg at 1 hour; this parameter subsequently returned to control values, whereas base excess showed a transient decrease. Fetal cerebral, myocardial, and adrenal blood flows were significantly increased at 1, 24, and 48 hours of hypoxemia. In contrast, there was no change in nuchal muscle or renal blood flows with hypoxemia of this magnitude. Cotyledonary blood flow increased transiently by 38% at 1 hour of hypoxemia, but was not changed from control at 24 and 48 hours. These experiments demonstrate that the sheep fetus is able to maintain the normal protective circulatory adjustments seen with acute hypoxemia for up to 48 hours in the absence of progressive metabolic acidemia.