Abstract The mechanisms contributing to worsening of asthma during pregnancy have not been well characterized. Both asthma and pregnancy are conditions associated with a skewing of the immune response from T helper (Th) 1 toward a Th2 response. We hypothesise that worsening of asthma during pregnancy may be due to an enhanced production of circulating proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines and this may be modified by the use of inhaled glucocorticoid treatment. Peripheral blood was collected from asthmatic ( n = 35) and control non-asthmatic patients ( n = 13) in the third trimester (30–37 weeks) of pregnancy. Fetal blood was collected from the umbilical vein of the placenta after delivery from normal ( n = 24) and pregnancies complicated by asthma ( n = 24). Plasma samples were assayed for IL-6, -8, eotaxin and RANTES using conventional ELISA. In addition, a range of Th1 and Th2 cytokines measured using Luminex system. There were no significant differences in the levels of maternal IL-6, IL-8, eotaxin and RANTES between asthmatics and nonasthmatics. The results of this study suggest that the presence of asthma does not result in an enhanced circulation of Th2 related cytokines and chemokines during the third trimester of pregnancy. Furthermore peripheral blood cytokine concentrations appear unaffected by inhaled glucocorticoid treatment. Cord plasma eotaxin concentrations were increased in pregnancies complicated by asthma, compared with control. This is the first study to show increased eotaxin production in the feto-placental unit of asthmatic pregnancies and may be one mechanism by which allergy susceptibility is increased in the offspring of asthmatic women.