Nalbuphine, a mixed agonist-antagonist opiate, is commonly used as a systemic analgesic during labour. Recent reports of perinatal adverse effects prompted us to carry out therapeutic nalbuphine monitoring in obstetric analgesia. Because data on fetomaternal transfer are scarce and the pharmacokinetics of this drug in the neonate are largely unknown, we report data obtained from 28 parturients treated with nalbuphine either intramuscularly and/or intravenously during labour. Plasma nalbuphine levels were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with electrochemical detection. At delivery, 30–150 min after maternal administration, nalbuphine concentrations ranged from 5.0 to 79.2 ng·ml−1 in mother plasma samples and from 3.0 to 46.6 ng·ml−1 in umbilical cord plasma samples. Nalbuphine concentrations were highly correlated to dose. The fetomaternal ratio was high: 0.74 and not correlated to the administered dose of nalbuphine. An estimated plasma half-life of 4.1 h was calculated from two determinations in the neonate based on the assumption of a monoexponential decay of nalbuphine concentrations. Apart from a flattening of the fetal heart rate tracing in 54% of the cases, only one neonate had a low Apgar score at birth. The apparent prolonged half-life of nalbuphine in the neonate indicates the usefulness of an intramuscular injection of naloxone to prevent recurrence of cardiorespiratory depression due to nalbuphine administration to the mother.