Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is distributed throughout the brain and in peripheral sites but primarily is localized in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. It is a "master" stress hormone that is responsible for the synthesis of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) in the anterior pituitary gland. Behaviorally active peptide hormones, including adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) and B-endorphin, are liberated from POMC by enzymes to activate critical processes during stress. CRH is not detectable in the circulation even during extreme stress. However, during human pregnancy, the human placenta expresses the gene for CRH (pCRH) resulting in detectable levels in maternal plasma that increases 20- to 40-fold over the course of gestation. Placental CRH is identical to CRH of hypothalamic origin in size, structure, immunoreactivity, and bioactivity. However, unlike the negative feedback between adrenal cortisol and hypothalamic CRH, cortisol stimulates the synthesis and release of pCRH. The bidirectional release of pCRH into maternal and fetal compartments is associated with regulating the timing of delivery, remodeling the fetal nervous system, and influencing developmental trajectories. Fetal exposure to pCRH during early and late gestation is associated with unique patterns of cortical thinning in school-age children. Placental CRH is elevated in response to physical and behavioral stress and may be an integrative marker of early adversity.