Studies in rodents and primates strongly indicate that prenatal stress affects the survival, behaviour and physiology of the offspring. Stressful stimuli during gestation may have a direct or hormone mediated effect on the development of stress systems in the foetal organism, resulting in an altered coping during stressful situations. The present study was conducted to elucidate prenatal stress effects in domestic pigs on the responses of the hypothalamicpituitary- adrenocortical (HPA) axis and the sympatho-adrenomedullary (SAM) system as well as on morbidity, mortality and growth of the offspring. Pregnant sows were subjected to a restraint stress for five minutes daily during the last five weeks of gestation. Endocrine reactions of the piglets were tested at 3, 7, 21 and 35 days of age using an immobilization test and an ACTH challenge test. Prenatally stressed piglets showed lower basal plasma cortisol and increased corticosteroid binding globulin (CBG) concentrations at 3 days of age, indicating decreased free cortisol concentrations after birth. Cortisol levels after ACTH stimulation and catecholamine levels after immobilization were not affected by the stress treatment of the sows. Piglets from stressed sows tended to have lower noradrenaline : adrenaline ratios at three days of age compared with the control piglets. In addition, stressed sows tended to have lower litter weights after birth. The morbidity and mortality during the suckling period was higher in the prenatally stressed litters, as shown by a higher frequency of diseased and perished piglets per litter. We suppose that prenatal stress during late gestation in pigs alters the development of the HPA system and impairs the vitality of the offspring.