Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), a cytokine that promotes white cell maturation, participates in the metabolism of pulmonary surfactant. Little is known on the production of GM-CSF during pregnancy or the neonatal period. We studied how the concentrations of GM-CSF in amniotic fluid (AF) or in tracheal aspirates (TA) of newborn infants are influenced by length of gestation, postnatal age, as well as conditions affecting the mother or the fetus. One hundred and forty-three AF samples from 143 pregnant patients (gestational age range, 28-42 wk) and 202 TA samples from 82 neonates (gestational age, 24-42.5 wk, postnatal age 0.2 d to 4 wk) were analyzed for GM-CSF using ELISA. In patients with intact membranes, AF GM-CSF increased as a function of gestational age; the concentrations were below 7.5 ng/L (detection limit of the assay) (n = 5), 18.6 +/- 2.3 ng/L (n = 56), and 56.7 +/- 7.9 ng/L (n = 58) at gestational ages between 28 and 32 wk, between 32 and 37 wk, and in term patients, respectively (linear regression: r = 0.404, p = 0.001). Among patients at less than 33 wk of gestation, those with intact membranes had a median AF GM-CSF concentration under the detection limit (n = 7), whereas in those with preterm premature rupture of membranes, the concentration was 50.1 +/- 22.2 ng/L (n = 16) (p = 0.002). Among term patients, those in labor had higher AF GM-CSF than those without signs of labor. TA GM-CSF at less than 12 h of age correlated with gestational age (r = 0.654, p = 0.0002, n = 28); thereafter, TA GM-CSF increased, and gestation dependence disappeared. We conclude that GM-CSF in AF and in fetal lung liquid is developmentally regulated and GM-CSF production increases in inflammatory conditions during pregnancy.