Many cases of intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) are the result of placental and fetal tissue insufficiency. Insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) is known to play a role in placental and fetal growth. An immunocytochemical study was performed to localize ICF-I peptides in human placenta and umbilical cords of normal (n = 3) and IUGR (n = 3) fetuses. The peripartum fetal conditions were evaluated as well. Immunoreactive IGF-I was detected in the cytotrophoblast, syncytiotrophoblast, amnion, endothelial cells of fetal capillaries and in the decidua in both normal and IUGR placental tissue. A more robust immunostaining and increased numbers of positively stained cells were found in the decidua of IUGR placenta (p < 0.001). Intense immunostaining was also found in endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells and fibroblasts of the umbilical vein. IGF-I immunoreactivity was also present in stroma (Hofbauer cells and/or fibroblasts) of IUGR villi; Our results indicate that expression of IGF-I is high in specific sites in placenta and umbilical cords, which indicates a paracrine and/or endocrine function. The increased expression of IGF-I in placenta of IUGR fetuses indicates its involvement in restoring normal growth by means of a positive feed-back mechanism.