Print page Print page
Switch language
The Capital Region of Denmark - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital

Associations between maternal stress during pregnancy and offspring obesity risk later in life-A systematic literature review

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewResearchpeer-review


View graph of relations

Exposure to prenatal stress is linked to health consequences in the offspring. The objective of this systematic review was to synthesize and critically appraise primary human studies that have examined the association between prenatal exposure to psychosocial stress, or adverse life events, stress hormones, and later risk of developing obesity. We searched Medline, Embase, ScienceDirect, WorldCat, and OpenGrey up to January 2019 to identify relevant literature. We critically appraised the identified studies, assessed their quality, and summarized their findings. From a total of 5930 search results and references of studies that authors considered pertinent, we identified 15 relevant studies among which three were of high quality and the rest were medium-quality studies. We found direct association between exposure to stress in fetal life and different measures of obesity in the offspring in eight studies. The direct association was usually observed in studies that involved measurement of stress among mothers exposed to natural disasters. Due to lack of adequate and comparable data from the included studies, we did not conduct a meta-analysis. We concluded that there may be direct association between prenatal stress and later obesity, but further research with more comparable sources of stressors is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12951
JournalObesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)e12951
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

    Research areas

  • BMI, life events, obesity, prenatal stress

ID: 61193574