A cohort of 15 immigrant females to Australia and 7 native Australian controls were monitored on a monthly basis with high-precision lead isotopic methods during gestation and for 6 months after pregnancy to determine the extent of lead mobilization from the maternal skeleton. Quarterly environmental samples of house dust, drinking water, urban air, gasoline, and a 6-day duplicate diet were also measured. The geometric mean blood lead concentration for the immigrant females on arrival in Australia was 3.0 microg/dl (range: 1.9 to 20 microg/dl), and for the Australian controls was 3.1 gm/dl (range: 1.9 to 4.3 microg/dl). During gestation and after pregnancy, blood lead concentrations varied, with mean individual changes of -14% to 83%. For the immigrant subjects, the percentage change in blood lead concentration was significantly greater during the postpregnancy period than during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters (p < 0.001). Skeletal contribution to blood lead, based on the isotopic composition for the immigrant subjects, increased in an approximately linear manner during pregnancy. The mean increases for each individual during pregnancy varied from 26% to 99%. Skeletal lead contribution to blood lead was significantly greater (p < 0.001) during the postpregnancy period than during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. The contribution of skeletal lead to blood lead during the postpregnancy period remained essentially constant at the increased level of lead mobilization, although the duration of breastfeeding varied from 1 week to more than 6 months. The increased contribution of skeletal lead to blood lead during the postpregnancy period is attributed to increased mobilization of lead from maternal skeletal stores during lactation. The increased contribution of skeletal lead both during pregnancy and in the postpregnancy period is consistent with increased bone resorption, and may be associated with an inadequate calcium intake observed in quarterly 6-day duplicate diets. Mobilization of skeletal lead stores represents a potentially important source of perinatal lead intake and accumulation in the developing fetus. Only two subjects consumed dietary supplements for calcium, and their mobilization of lead from the skeleton to the blood was the lowest of all the subjects. These two subjects' use of calcium supplements may have reduced mobilization of skeletal mineral stores to supply the calcium needs of pregnancy and lactation. Calcium supplementation may be an important means of limiting fetal exposure to lead.