During recent decades much interest has been focused on the possibility of predicting and preventing atopic diseases during pregnancy. The idea of being able to detect a predisposition early and take suitable environmental measures in order to avoid overt allergy is an attractive position. Elevated cord IgE of around 1.0 IU/ml has been proposed as a predictor in western children. However, there remains no information about the effect of maternal lifestyle during pregnancy on these levels. Total IgE levels were therefore determined using Pharmacia CAP system and PRIST, with sensitivities of 0.01 kU/l and 0.25 kU/l, respectively, from serum samples taken from 1138 Japanese pairs of cord blood and pregnant women responding to a questionnaire regarding 17 health practices, intake of 32 food allergens and 5 environmental factors. Of these, 28 (2.5%) pairs of samples were excluded from further analysis because of high contamination of IgA (> 15.4 mg/ml) in cord blood. Median cord blood IgE was 0.286 kU/l and geometric mean IgE was 66.25 kU/l in maternal sera using CAP system; there was no significant correlation between maternal log (IgE) and cord blood IgE. Similar results were obtained from PRIST, whose correlation with CAP system was significant (r = 0.884, p < 0.001 for maternal and r = 0.765, p < 0.001 for cord blood). Multiple logistic analysis demonstrated that avoidance of simultaneous exposure to hens' eggs and cow's milk (relative risk = 1.3, p < 0.05) as well as soy beans (relative risk = 2.8, p < 0.01) should be advised to mothers with positive allergic histories and/or high total IgE (> 400 IU/ml), especially in women aged more than 35 years who are pregnant with a male child. However, maintenance of healthy lifestyles, especially taking proper exercise and sleeping, and avoidance of inhalant allergens during late pregnancy may be a more important strategy for the reduction of cord blood IgE levels.