Sequential changes in maternal and fetal plasma and amniotic fluid concentrations of prolactin (PRL) and growth hormone (GH) were examined after these intravascular administration of thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) or L-dopa alone or combined directly to the near-term Rhesus fetus. The neonatal plasma responses to these same stimuli were also examined. Fetal and neonatal plasma PRL levels increased immediately after TRH injection and remained elevated from baseline levels (102-800%) throughout the 45 min sampling period. Maternal plasma PRL levels also increased markedly. Although amniotic fluid concentrations were more variable, the trend was an increase. After L-dopa injection, fetal and neonatal plasma PRL values declined 26-62% from baseline levels. Maternal plasma PRL concentrations also declined 30-50%, but amniotic fluid PRL concentrations progressively increased. When L-dopa and TRH were administered together, fetal plasma PRL levels declined 14-40% from initial levels, but maternal plasma PRL levels did not change in a consistent manner, and amniotic fluid PRL levels remained stable. There was no change from baseline fetal or neonatal plasma GH concentrations in these experiments. The plasma PRL responses of the primate conceptus to these stimuli are consistent with those found in the adult; the unresponsiveness of plasma GH is not. The direction and magnitude of changes in both maternal plasma and amniotic fluid PRL concentrations provide indirect evidence of placental transfer of TRH and L-dopa in some experiments, and require a biophysical explanation not apparent in others.