Placental GH is thought to be responsible for the rise in maternal IGF-I during pregnancy and is considered to be important for fetal growth. In this prospective longitudinal study of healthy pregnant women, we investigated determinants of placental GH in maternal serum. Serum was obtained from 455 women with normal singleton pregnancies at approximately 19 and 28 wk gestation. Serum placental GH concentrations were measured by a highly specific immunoradiometric assay, and fetal size was measured by ultrasound. Data on birth weight, gender, prepregnancy body mass index (BMI), parity, and smoking habits were obtained from medical records. Serum placental GH concentrations were detectable in serum from all women as early as 14 wk gestation and increased during pregnancy in all individuals (P < 0.001). Placental GH levels at second examination were found to be higher in women carrying female fetuses [median, 9.0 ng/ml; 95% confidence interval (CI), 4.7-23.0] compared with women carrying male fetuses (median, 8.2 ng/ml; 95% CI, 3.96-19.4; P = 0.004). Similarly, the increase in placental GH between 19 and 28 wk gestation was significantly larger in female fetus bearers than in male fetus bearers (P = 0.002). Placental GH at second examination was positively correlated with gestational age (P = 0.002) and negatively correlated with prepregnancy BMI (P = 0.039). Placental GH correlated with fetal weight at approximately 28 wk gestation (P = 0.002) but did not predict birth weight at term. Our study supports the role of maternal placental GH in the regulation of fetal growth. In conclusion, we found that 1) placental GH levels correlated significantly with fetal size at 28 wk gestation; 2) GH levels were measurable in serum from all women as early as 14 wk gestation; 3) maternal prepregnancy BMI and smoking were determinants of placental GH levels, although their specific effects on the serum maternal levels of placental GH remain to be seen; and 4) women carrying female fetuses have significantly higher placental GH levels compared with women carrying male fetuses at 28 wk gestation.