The most probable factor connecting premature infant problems such as retinopathy, intraventricular hemorrhage and chronic lung disease appears to be the excessive production of oxygen free radicals which can occur as a consequence of oxygen therapy. The aim of our investigation was to elucidate the possible correlations between lipid peroxidation, in this study measured as hydroperoxides production, and antioxidant concentrations in erythrocyte membranes of both full term and preterm infants. Hydroperoxide concentrations were found to be high, especially in premature infants, in erythrocyte membranes at birth and in the initial days of life. The erythrocyte membranes were also found to contain low levels and/or low activities of antioxidant defense mechanisms which was more evident in premature newborns where alpha-tochopherol levels were significantly lower in comparison to full term infant levels. Furthermore, when premature infants undergo oxygen therapy these effects were exacerbated. These results demonstrate that at birth, particularly in the premature newborn, the degree of oxidative stress outweighs the antioxidant defense mechanisms.