The amount of stress that pregnant women experience while pregnant and breast-feeding might increase their kids’ risk of obesity later in life, according to a study presented at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting and reported by Health News Daily.

For the study, researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School stimulated stress in pregnant mice. The result? Stressed-out mice’s offspring grew faster after weaning than non-stressed mice’s young. What’s more, after two months, stressed mice offspring developed belly fat and pre-diabetes.

In addition, researchers also noted only female offspring seemed to be affect by their mothers’ stress during pregnancy. Although scientists couldn’t explained why this happened, it might be because fatty issue is more important for females to produce offspring later, explained Ruijun Han, lead study author.

While more research is necessary to see if stress produces the same effects in humans, researchers think mothers’ stress might increase brain neurotransmitter activity and boost  fat cell numbers.

The number of fat cells a person has before his or her teenage years is a major determinant of obesity risk. It’s hoped that lowering stress during pregnancy might decrease the child’s number of fat cells, thus giving kids a head start on healthy weight.

As Han concluded, “[Stress] intervention during pregnancy and childhood might be an efficient way to prevent adult obesity.”

Click here for more information on the connection between childhood obesity and pregnancy.