We measured cord transferrin and ferritin levels in 50 newborn infants with fetal conditions associated with either uteroplacental vascular insufficiency or chronic hypoxia. Sixteen small for gestational age infants, 21 infants of mothers with preeclampsia, and 13 symptomatic infants of diabetic mothers had significantly higher transferrin levels and lower ferritin levels and calculated iron stores than did asymptomatic gestational age-matched control infants without these conditions. Cord ferritin levels and calculated iron stores were significantly lower in the infants of diabetic mothers than in any other group of infants. Cord transferrin levels were inversely correlated with ferritin levels (r=-0.59, P<0.001) and were unrelated to transthyretin levels and birth weight in the high-risk infants, but were positively correlated with ferritin levels (r=0.50, P<0.001), transthyretin levels (r=0.65, P<0.001), and birth weight (r=0.75, P<0.001) in the control infants. We conclude that cord transferrin levels do not reflect protein-energy status in newborn infants with prenatal histories suggesting uteroplacental insufficiency or chronic hypoxia, and that when associated with decreased cord ferritin levels, indicate possible impaired iron stores in these infants.