Decreased placental oxygenation and increased oxidative stress are implicated in the development of preeclampsia. Oxidative stress arises from imbalance between pro-versus anti-oxidants and can lead to biological oxidation and apoptosis. Because pregnant women living at high altitude (3100 m, HA) have lowered arterial PO2 and an increased incidence of preeclampsia, we hypothesized that HA placentas would have decreased anti-oxidant enzyme activity, increased oxidative stress (lipid peroxidation, protein oxidation and nitration) and greater trophoblast apoptosis than low-altitude (LA) placentas. We measured enzymatic activities, lipid and protein oxidation and co-factor concentrations by spectrophotometric techniques and ELISA in 12 LA and 18 HA placentas. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) was used to evaluate nitrated proteins and specific markers of apoptosis (activated caspase 3 and M30). Superoxide dismutase activity was marginally lower (p=0.05), while glutathione peroxidase activity (p<0.05), thioredoxin concentrations (p<0.005) and thioredoxin reductase activity p<0.01 were all reduced in HA placentas. Decreased anti-oxidant activity was not associated with increased oxidative stress: lipid peroxide content and protein carbonyl formation were lower at HA (p<0.01). We found greater nitrotyrosine residues in the syncytiotrophoblast at 3100 m (p<0.05), but apoptosis did not differ between altitudes. Our data suggest that hypoxia does not increase placental oxidative stress in vivo. Nitrative stress may be a consequence of hypoxia but does not appear to contribute to increased apoptosis. Lowered placental concentrations of anti-oxidants may contribute to the susceptibility of women living at HA to the development of preeclampsia, but are unlikely to be etiological.