Abstract Environmental conditions during early life may have profound effects on respiratory control development. We hypothesized that perinatal hypercapnia would exert lasting effects on the mammalian hypercapnic ventilatory response, but that these effects would differ between males and females. Rats were exposed to 5% CO 2 from 1 to 3 days before birth through postnatal week 2 and ventilation was subsequently measured by whole-body plethysmography. In both male and female rats exposed to perinatal hypercapnia, a rapid, shallow breathing pattern was observed for the first 2 weeks after return to normocapnia, but ventilation was unchanged. Acute hypercapnic ventilatory responses (3% and 5% CO 2) were reduced 27% immediately following perinatal hypercapnia, but these responses were normal after 2 weeks of recovery in both sexes and remained normal as adults. Collectively, these data suggest that perinatal hypercapnia elicits only transient respiratory plasticity in both male and female rats. This plasticity appears similar to that observed after chronic hypercapnia in adult animals and, therefore, is not unique to development.