To study the severity and degree of in utero alcohol effects in relation to the rate of maternal alcohol damage, multiparous 1-year alcoholfed rats were used, with an appropriate pair-fed control group. During pregnancy, alcoholic dams showed relatively high acetaldehyde levels (41 ± 19 μmol/1) and blood alcohol levels of 22.8 ± 14 mmol/1. They also showed marked histological alterations in liver as well as high serum aspartate-aminotransferase, alanine-aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, glutamate dehydrogenase, and gamma-glutamyltransferase activities. The increase in serum enzyme levels did not correlate with an increase in hepatic enzyme levels since only glutamate dehydrogenase was enhanced in liver after 1 year of alcohol intake. In addition, except for an increase in low Km aldehyde dehydrogenase activity, there were no changes in liver alcohol metabolizing enzymes in chronic alcohol vs. pair-fed females. Alcoholic rats showed a high incidence of damage in their progeny (resorptions, immature fetuses, decrease in fetal weight, etc.), and rats with the highest serum levels of the above enzymes (especially glutamate dehydrogenase and gamma-glutamyl transferase) had severely affected progeny. Rats with minimal histological liver damage, in contrast, did not show resorptions. Thus, the results presented suggest that the stage of maternal alcohol illness, as indicated mainly by the extent of liver damage, plays an important role in the frequency and severity of in utero alcohol effects in the rat.