All 853 active members of the Washington Academy of Family Practice were surveyed in the summer of 1985 to determine the impact of rising malpractice premiums on patterns of obstetric practice. Of the 685 physicians who responded, 61% are currently practicing obstetrics. The median number of deliveries per year was 29, with a range of 1 to 130 deliveries per physician. Younger physicians, rural physicians and those in group practice were more likely to practice obstetrics than older, urban physicians in solo practice. Of the 266 respondents not currently practicing obstetrics, 77% had discontinued obstetric practice within the past five years-half because of issues related to professional liability. Of those practicing obstetrics, 50% stated that they would cease obstetric practice if malpractice premiums rose to $12,000.