Propofol 2.5 mg/kg was compared with thiopentone 5 mg/kg as an induction agent for elective Caesarean section. Thirty-two healthy women with cephalopelvic disproportion were included in an open randomised study. The placental transfer of propofol was also studied in 10 other mothers given a single dose of 2.5 mg/kg. The induction characteristics and haemodynamic response to propofol and thiopentone were similar. Side effects were rare with both agents, but propofol caused more discomfort on injection compared to thiopentone. Recovery times were shorter after propofol as evaluated by time to orientation, recovery scoring after anaesthesia and measurements with the Maddox wing. Rapid placental transfer and significant fetal uptake were detected for propofol. There was no significant neonatal depression as assessed by Apgar scores and blood gas analyses. Propofol appears to be a suitable alternative to thiopentone as an induction agent for anaesthesia in elective Caesarean section.