A retrospective follow-up study to ascertain the relationship between the level of serum zinc and its rate of change during gestation and birthweight was conducted in 476 women of lower socioeconomic status. Serum zinc concentrations measured at approximately 16 (early) and 32 weeks (later) in gestation were both found to be significant predictors of birthweight. Even after controlling for gestational age at birth and other determinants of birthweight, for each μg/dl increase in serum zinc early and later in pregnancy, birthweight increased by 5.8 and 8.6 g, respectively. Furthermore, after adjustment for initial zinc levels both the total change (β = -7.0, P = 0.0007) and the rate of change (β = -60.8, P = 0.007) in serum zinc during pregnancy were inversely associated with birthweight, i.e., the larger the fall in serum zinc during pregnancy, the smaller the infant. Low serum zinc level (< 60 μg/dl) late in pregnancy was associated with greater than a five-fold increase in the odds (OR = 5.8, 95% CI = 1.8, 16.4) of giving birth to a low birthweight infant. The results of this study suggest a threshold for maternal serum zinc below which the prevalence of low birthweight increases rapidly. © 1991.