The present study was designed to determine the effects of prenatal malnutrition or environmental stress on the development of the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area (SDN-POA). Pregnant rats were divided into a control group and two treatment groups (immobilization-illumination-heat or environmental stress, and nutritional stress). The two forms of stress were administered during the third trimester of gestation (days 14-20). Male and female offspring were sacrificed at birth, 20, and 60 days postnatally. The cross-sectional area of the SDN-POA was identified under light microscopy and was measured. The data confirm previous studies by showing a significant sex difference in the SDN-POA between control male and female rats. Prenatally stressed males sacrificed 20 and 60 days after birth showed SDN-POA areas 50% smaller than the nuclear areas of control males. The size of the SDN-POA of female offspring, however, was not significantly altered by prenatal treatments.