Use of cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitors to delay preterm birth is complicated by in utero constriction of the ductus arteriosus and delayed postnatal closure. Delayed postnatal closure has been attributed to loss of vasa vasorum flow and ductus wall ischemia resulting from constriction in utero. We used the murine ductus (which does not depend on vasa vasorum flow) to determine whether delayed postnatal closure may be because of mechanisms independent of in utero constriction. Acute inhibition of both COX isoforms constricted the fetal ductus on days 18 and 19 (term) but not earlier in gestation; COX-2 inhibition constricted the fetal ductus more than COX-1 inhibition. In contrast, mice exposed to prolonged inhibition of COX-1, COX-2, or both COX isoforms (starting on day 15, when the ductus does not respond to the inhibitors) had no contractile response to the inhibitors on days 18 or 19. Newborn mice closed their ductus within 4 h of birth. Prolonged COX inhibition on days 11-14 of gestation had no effect on newborn ductal closure; however, prolonged COX inhibition on days 15-19 resulted in delayed ductus closure despite exposure to 80% oxygen after birth. Similarly, targeted deletion of COX-2 alone, or COX-1/COX-2 together, impaired postnatal ductus closure. Nitric oxide inhibition did not prevent the delay in ductus closure. These data show that impaired postnatal ductus closure is not the result of in utero ductus constriction or upregulation of nitric oxide synthesis. They are consistent with a novel role for prostaglandins in ductus arteriosus contractile development.