The elements of a woman's reproductive history that may be associated with her risk of having a child who develops epilepsy have not been well described. To examine these possible associations, we used a multiple-source case ascertainment method to identify ten-year-old children with epilepsy who were living in the metropolitan Atlanta area in 1985-87; same-age control children were selected from public schools. To obtain reproductive history and other information, we interviewed 107 mothers of children with epilepsy and 408 mothers of control children. Twenty-nine children with a known intrauterine or postnatal aetiology were excluded from the analysis. We computed adjusted odds ratios for reproductive history characteristics, controlling for the race of the child, maternal education, census block group income, maternal pregnancy history and family history of a developmental disability. Our analyses indicated that mothers of children with epilepsy not only had more previous live births, but more previous adverse reproductive outcomes including spontaneous abortions, very low birthweight infants and infants with birth defects. The risk was especially strong for maternal history of a child with a birth defect. The specific types of birth defects reported in excess include central nervous system defects (specifically spina bifida) and Down's syndrome.