To determine whether placental abnormality (placental abruption or placental previa) during pregnancy predisposes an infant to a high risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the authors conducted a population-based case-control study using 1989-1991 California linked birth and death certificate data. They identified 2,107 SIDS cases, 96% of whom were diagnosed through autopsy. Ten controls were randomly selected for each case from the same linked birth-death certificate data, matched to the case on year of birth. About 1.4% of mothers of cases and 0.7% of mothers of controls had either placental abruption or placenta previa during the index pregnancy. After adjustment for potential confounders, placental abnormality during pregnancy was associated with a twofold increase in the risk of SIDS in offspring (odds ratio = 2.1, 95% confidence interval 1.3-3.1). The individual effects of placental abruption and placenta previa on the risk of SIDS did not differ significantly. An impaired fetal development due to placental abnormality may predispose an infant to a high risk of SIDS.