There is increasing evidence to support the view that human parturition represents an inflammatory process. We have previously demonstrated that parturition is associated with leukocyte invasion and pro-inflammatory cytokine production in the cervix and myometrium. Furthermore, we have shown that several cell adhesion molecules are upregulated in these tissues during labor. In fetal membranes, previous studies have shown intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) upregulation in association with labor. The role of other adhesion molecules has not been explored. The aims of this study were, therefore, to determine the expression of ICAM-1, platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule (PECAM), vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM) and E-selectin in pre- and post-laboring amnion and choriodecidua and to identify cell types responsible for their expression. Biopsies of fetal membranes were obtained from pregnant women delivered by caesarean section before the onset of labor (n = 8) and following spontaneous vaginal delivery (n = 8). Cell adhesion molecules were identified using immunohistochemistry and messenger RNA expression quantified using Northern analysis. We found that following labor, ICAM-1 mRNA expression was significantly upregulated in amnion and choriodecidua (P <0.05). PECAM mRNA expression was also increased in choriodecidua (P <0.05). The main cell types responsible for adhesion molecule expression were leukocytes, amniotic epithelial cells and endothelial cells. The upregulation of ICAM-1 and PECAM mRNA expression in fetal membranes following labor provides further evidence that fetal membranes play an important role in the inflammatory process of parturition.