Concentrations of phosphorus metabolites and intracellular pH have been measured in non-pregnant, late-pregnant and post-partum rat uterus using 31P nuclear magnetic resonance (31P n.m.r.). Intact uterine tissue was superfused with oxygenated de-Jalon solution at 4, 20 or 37 degrees C while inside the n.m.r. spectrometer. The phosphocreatine concentration [PCr], was higher and the inorganic phosphate concentration [Pi], lower than values determined by chemical analysis of extracts from both pregnant and non-pregnant rat uterus. [PCr] was 1.4-fold greater in late-pregnant than in non-pregnant rat uterus. Following parturition, large changes were observed in [PCr], [Pi] and in an unidentified metabolite in the phosphomonoester (PME) region of the n.m.r. spectrum. The time course of the recovery of these metabolites to prepregnant values was determined. The [PCr] remained below the non-pregnant value for at least 1 week post-partum and the [Pi] was elevated, compared to the non-pregnant value, during this period. More rapid changes were seen in the [PME], which doubled on day 0 post-partum but almost returned to its non-pregnant value on day 1 post-partum. No significant difference was observed between intracellular pH values in late-pregnant and non-pregnant rat uterus; however, there was a large acid shift following parturition. Intracellular pH depended upon the temperature at which the tissue was maintained. The effect of muscular work during parturition was investigated by comparing Caesarian-sectioned uteri with uteri which had undergone normal parturition. Uteri examined 1 day after Caesarian operation showed no differences in metabolite levels from normal, 1 day post-partum uteri. We conclude that concentrations of phosphorus metabolites depend upon the physiological state of the uterus. We suggest that the changes following parturition are not a consequence of the mechanical work performed by the uterus, but must be caused by some other event associated with parturition such as hormonal changes.