A radioenzymatic assay was used to measure plasma concentrations of the catecholamines, norepinephrine, and epinephrine in the perinatal period. Samples were obtained at birth from the umbilical artery and vein of infants born by vaginal and by cesarean section delivery; from peripheral venous samples of normal infants during the first 48 hours of life; and from peripheral venous samples of mothers prior to delivery. Concentrations of NE and E were elevated in umbilical samples, with umbilical artery levels exceeding umbilical venous concentrations. Umbilical plasma CAT concentrations were similar in vaginal and cesarean section delivered infants. Plasma concentrations of NE consistently predominated over E in all samples from neonates. Plasma CAT concentrations rapidly fell from cord levels within 15 minutes of delivery and remained at a lower plateau during the first three hours of life. By 12 hours of age plasma CAT concentrations fell to the levels of supine adult resting concentrations. Maternal plasma CAT concentration prior to delivery demonstrated a predominance of E over NE. These elevations of plasma CAT in the early neonatal period may play a rola in nonshivering heat production as well as in cardiovascular alterations associated with birth.