Progesterone secreted by the corpora lutea stimulates uterine secretion of nutrients required for embryonic growth. But progesterone also blocks maturation of ovarian follicles and oestrous behaviour. When conception fails, therefore, the corpora lutea must lyse, in order to allow a second ovulation and oestrus, while in pregnancy the corpora lutea must be maintained. A number of different endocrine mechanisms exist to ensure the corpora lutea are controlled appropriately depending on pregnancy status; among the best studied of these are the secretion by the developing conceptus of interferons (in ungulates) or chorionic gonadotropins (in primates). These and other mechanisms are reviewed.