In order to assess fetal function at term, we have investigated parameters of thyroid hormone secretion and degradation in human amniotic fluid and in cord and maternal sera at delivery. The parameters measured included 3,3' L-diiodothyronine (3,3'T2), 3,3',5'-triiodothyronine (reverse T3), 3,3',5'-triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4), dialyzable T3 and T4, thyroxine binding globulin (TBG),and total iodine. The mean (+/- SE) 3,3'T2 concentrations in cord sera, amniotic fluid, and maternal sera were 20 +/- 1 ng/100 ml, 20 +/- 2 ng/100 ml,and 27 +/- 3 ng/100 ml, respectively. The normal range of this metabolite in the sera of non-pregnant adult subjects was 7 to 29 ng/100 ml. The mean (+/- SE) concentration of reverse T3 was higher in cord sera (315 +/- 16 ng/100 ml), amniotic fluid (82 +/- 25 ng/100 ml) and maternal sera (79 +/- 5 ng/100 ml) than in the sera of normal subjects (mean +/- 2 SD; 60 +/- 12 ng/100 ml). In amniotic fluid, T3, T4, and TBG were low, per cent dialyzable T3 and T4 were increased, and iodine concentrations were relatively normal in comparison to their respective serum levels in euthyroid adults. Since T3 and T4 were low in amniotic fluid our data indicate that measurements of 3,3'T2, reverse T3, or per cent dialyzable T3 and T4 in amniotic fluid would be the potentially most useful in establishing the diagnosis of congenital hypothyroidism before birth. In addition, these studies demonstrate that 3,3'T2 is normally present in the peripheral circulation and suggest that reverse T3 is the major source of 3,3'T2 in both amniotic fluid and cord blood.