Antigen- and mitogen-stimulated cytokine production by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of 50 pregnant women and 31 age- and sex-matched non-pregnant controls were analysed to determine whether changes in cytokine production occur during normal and pathologic human gestation. The pregnant women, consecutively enrolled during a 3-month period, were undergoing a normal, non-pathologic pregnancy at the time of entry into the study, and underwent ultrasound examination to ascertain the exact week of pregnancy and the vitality of the fetus. Forty of the 50 pregnancies (80%) terminated physiologically with the birth of normal babies. Spontaneous abortions were observed in 5/50 (10%) women, and five women gave birth to newborns small for gestational age (SGA). A decrease in the production of IL-2 and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) accompanied by an increase in production of IL-4 and IL-10, was observed in normal pregnancy, with the lowest quantities of IL-2 and IFN-gamma and the highest quantities of IL-4 and IL-10 present in the third trimester of pregnancy. Statistically significant increased production of both IL-2 and IFN-gamma and reduced production of IL-10 characterized pathologic pregnancies and distinguished them from normal pregnancies. These preliminary data suggest that a type 2 cytokine profile may be associated with normal human pregnancy, whereas the lack of a dominant type 2 cytokine profile may be indicative of a pathologic pregnancy.