The natural history of trisomy 18 and trisomy 13 was investigated using data derived from parent questionaires and medical records from 98 families with an index case of trisomy 18 and 32 families with an index case of trisomy 13. Data are presented on pregnancy, delivery, survival, medical complications, immunizations, growth, cause of death, cytogenetics, and recurrence risk. Half of the trisomy 18 babies were delivered by C-section. Fetal distress was a factor in half, and the only reason in a third of C-section deliveries. One minute Apgar scores were significantly lower in C-section and breech deliveries. There were more small for gestational age babies than in the general population, but most of the low birth weight new borns were small for gestational age, unlike the general population. Survival in this group of children was better than in other studies due to ascertainment bias. There were more girls than boys at all ages for both conditions, and the sex ratio decreased with time. Growth curves for length, weight, head circumference, and weight vs height are provided. Long-term survival did not appear to be due to mosaicism. We found no adverse reactions attributable to immunizations. At age 1 year there was an average of approximately 2 operations per living child. We report the second case of successful major cardiac surgery in a trisomy 18 child. Almost 70% of deaths were attributed to cardiopulmonary arrest. The sibling recurrence risk for trisomy 18 or trisomy 13 was 0.55%. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.