Effects of increasing maternal L-carnitine on carnitine status and energy metabolism in the fetus were evaluated by feeding pregnant swine a corn-soybean-based diet containing either 0 or 50 mg/kg added L-carnitine (n = 10/treatment) during the first 70 d of gestation. Carnitine, carnitine palmitoyltransferase (CPT), and pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDHC) activities were analyzed in tissues collected from fetuses on d 55 and 70. Maternal L-carnitine supplementation increased both fetal free and long-chain carnitine concentrations by 45% in liver and free carnitine by 31% in heart tissues but did not affect kidney tissue. Elevations in free and acylcarnitines increased with gestational age from 55 to 70 d in liver but not in heart and kidney. The increased carnitine concentrations resulted in a 45% increase in PDHC activity in heart and liver on d 70 of gestation but did not affect kidney and liver on d 55 of gestation. The increases in carnitine concentrations were accompanied by a 70% increase in hepatic CPT activity in 70-d-old fetuses, but activities in heart and kidney were unaffected. The Michaelis constant (Km) of CPT for carnitine in fetal tissues was not influenced by carnitine supplementation (P > 0.1). Notably, the concentrations of carnitine measured on d 70 were only 25-40% of the Km values in liver, 60-70% in heart, and 30-40% in kidney (P < 0.001). We conclude that carnitine ingestion during pregnancy increases fetal carnitine concentrations and stimulates heart PDHC and liver CPT activity without altering carnitine Km.