An association between various abnormal mid-trimester maternal serum analyte values and adverse perinatal outcome has been reported. From an original sample of 14,857 women, we observed five women who were 'screen-positive' for both neural tube defects [maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (MSAFP) > or = 2.5 multiples of the median] and Down syndrome [risk > or = 1/274 using MSAFP, maternal serum unconjugated oestriol (MSuE3), maternal serum human chorionic gonadotropin (MShCG), and maternal age]. The four patients who elected to undergo amniocentesis all demonstrated both normal karyotype and normal amniotic fluid AFP levels. All five cases were associated with intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) and abnormal pregnancy outcomes. Two cases exhibiting severe IUGR on ultrasound examination were terminated at 19.1 and 21.2 weeks, respectively; the former also exhibited fetal calcifications and positive maternal serology for toxoplasmosis. In another case, fetal demise occurred at 36 weeks' gestation in a patient who had been treated for syphilis in the second trimester. Neither infection was confirmed in fetal tissue studies. Though resulting in live births, the remaining two cases required operative deliveries; emergency Caesarean sections for fetal distress were performed at 38 and 32 weeks, respectively, the latter case being associated with severe pre-eclampsia. We conclude that elevated mid-trimester MSAFP levels concurrent with maternal serum analyte values associated with increased risk for fetal Down syndrome may presage a poor perinatal outcome, particularly IUGR and possibly congenital infection.