The sympathoadrenal system is activated in both the mother and fetus during parturition. The fetal plasma catecholamines may reach extremely high levels during deliveries complicated by asphyxia. Increased maternal sympathoadrenal activity during labour or caesarean section may negatively affect uteroplacental blood flow with possible adverse effects on the fetus. Such an increase may be avoided by adequate maternal pain relief and by the sympathetic blockade which follows epidural anaesthesia. Fetal sympathoadrenal activation during parturition seems on the contrary to be of positive functional importance both for fetal circulatory regulation in utero a well as for the neonatal adaptation in terms of pulmonary function and metabolic stimulation.