Twenty patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at a mean gestational age of 32 weeks. There were 12 patients with suspected fetal brain abnormality and four with intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), while the remaining four cases were studied for other reasons. The MRI examinations were performed on a 0.5 Tesla machine, with surface coils. One minute acquisition time T1 sequences were used. All the studies were performed without fetal curarization, and only under maternal sedation using flunitrazepam given per os 1 h before MRI examination. Three examinations were incomplete because of fetal movement artefacts. In the remaining cases, MRI allowed the examination of fetal brain anatomy. In five cases, it helped to differentiate isolated hydrocephalus and corpus callosum agenesis. Sub-ependymal nodules were depicted in a case of fetal tuberous sclerosis. One suspected arachnoid cyst was proved to be an ultrasound artefact. Decreased fetal fat on MR images was correlated with low birth weight in cases of IUGR. Due to its better spatial resolution, ultrasonography was more accurate for the diagnosis of facial and lumbar anomalies. Fetal MRI may be performed without curarization. Surface coils allow the detailed analysis of brain parenchyma, and thus MRI is especially useful in the difficult prenatal diagnosis of fetal brain abnormalities.