We investigated the dynamics of the leptin concentration throughout the perinatal period. Serum leptin concentrations in venous cord blood at different gestational ages were measured in 20 preterm and 139 term newborns, as well as in 143 pregnant women and 24 term newborns at approximately 6 d of life. Leptin concentrations in preterm newborns (mean 4.6+/-6.9 ng/mL) were lower than those in term newborns (mean 19.6+/-14.3 ng/mL) and tended to increase according to gestational age and birth weight, especially from the late stage of gestation. Leptin concentrations in pregnant women increased from the first trimester and then remained higher than those in non-pregnant women throughout the remainder of pregnancy even after controlling for body mass index. The leptin concentrations of newborns declined rapidly and were extremely low by approximately 6 d of life (mean 1.9+/-1.1 ng/mL). These results suggest that fetuses might produce a part of circulating leptin in their own adipocytes and that the relatively high leptin concentrations at birth and their rapid decline in the early neonatal period might reflect the dramatic changes of the hormonal and nutritional state during the perinatal period.