Pregnancy poses an immunological challenge because a genetically distinct (nonself) fetus must be supported within the pregnant female for the required gestational period. Placentation, or the establishment of the fetally derived placenta, is a common strategy used by eutherian mammals to protect the fetus and promote its growth. However, the substantial morphological differences of the placental architecture among species suggest that the process of placentation results from convergent evolution. Although there are considerable similarities in placental function across placental mammals, there are important differences that arise owing to species-specific immunological (and other biological) constraints. This Review focuses on the immunological similarities and differences that occur at the maternal-fetal interface in the context of human and mouse pregnancies. We discuss how the decidua and placenta of these different species form key immunological barriers that sustain maternal tolerance yet generate innate immune responses that prevent microbial infections.