Over recent years, studies have demonstrated links between risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood and adverse events that occurred very early in life during fetal development. The concept that there are embryonic and fetal adaptive responses to a sub-optimal intrauterine environment often brought about by poor maternal diet that result in permanent adverse consequences to life-long health is consistent with the definition of "programming". The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of the current knowledge of the effects of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) on long-term cardiac structure and function, with particular emphasis on the effects of maternal protein restriction. Much of our recent knowledge has been derived from animal models. We review the current literature of one of the most commonly used models of IUGR (maternal protein restriction in rats), in relation to birth weight and postnatal growth, blood pressure and cardiac structure and function. In doing so, we highlight the complexity of developmental programming, with regards to timing, degree of severity of the insult, genotype and the subsequent postnatal phenotype.