We have determined the concentration and distribution of oxytocin receptors in myometrial and decidual tissues obtained at cesarean section or hysterectomy during pregnancy. Myometrial receptor concentration was low at 13 to 17 weeks but had risen about twelvefold by 37 to 41 weeks. After the onset of labor, either preterm or term, the receptor levels were maximal and significantly higher than before the onset of labor. In cases of failed induction of labor with oxytocin and in postterm pregnancies (43 to 46 weeks), the receptor concentration was significantly lower than in spontaneous labor. Myometrial receptor concentrations in the fundus and the corpus were similar and significantly higher than in the lower part of the uterine segment, and the cervix had the lowest concentration. The parietal decidua had oxytocin receptor concentrations of the same magnitude as the myometrium. These results are consistent with a functional role of endogenous oxytocin in the activation of the human uterus during pregnancy and parturition.