ABSTRACT: Studies of maternal famine or nutritional rehabilitation can be grouped into three patterns: those in which famine occurred at conception or in the first trimester and was reversed by the end of pregnancy; those in which famine or nutritional therapy occurred in the second and third trimester; and pregnancies of chronically undernourished women in which the effect on birthweight of supplementation of the diet was studied. Overall, the effect of dietary supplementation in chronically undernourished women has been disappointing, either because the women may not have been sufficiently nutritionally deprived, or chronically undernourished women may have had difficulty increasing their energy intakes. The timing of the supplements in pregnancy was probably not a factor. It is postulated that the growth potential of the fetuses of chronically undernourished women may be lower than that of acutely malnourished fetuses.