BACKGROUND: Pena and Shokeir described the phenotype of two sisters in 1974, and subsequently their features have become recognized as a sequence of deformational changes related to decreased or absent fetal movement (fetal akinesia deformation sequence [FADS]), because of the work of Moessinger (1983). METHODS: Identification of reported cases by searching Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man, Medlines, the London Dysmorphology Database, and the references found in these articles. These case reports were reviewed, tabulated, and summarized. RESULTS: It is now possible to recognize at least 20 familial types of Pena-Shokeir phenotype (PSP), based on the differences found in the reports of the natural history and pathology found at fetal and newborn autopsy. In addition, characteristic changes in the central nervous system seen with embryonic/fetal vascular compromise have been recognized in many reported cases. Most of the reported cases of PSP/FADS related to vascular compromise are sporadic, but familial cases have also been reported. CONCLUSION: Lack of fetal movement (fetal akinesia) in humans produces a recognizable sequence of deformations. Many developmental processes must be accomplished for fetal movement to be normal, and for extra-uterine life to be sustainable. Prenatal diagnosis is possible through real-time ultrasound studies as early as 12 weeks. Most reported cases die in utero, at birth, or in the newborn period. Advances in embryo/fetus pathology have led to the recognition of the many familial subtypes, allowing improved genetic counseling and early recognition in subsequent pregnancies. Birth Defects Research (Part A), 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.