Mothers-to-be beware. Women who are overweight during pregnancy may be more likely to have fatter children susceptible to chronic health problems, UNSW research shows.

Research from Professor Margaret Morris, the head of UNSW's Department of Pharmacology, indicates that obesity in motherhood leads to heavier babies, with more body fat and altered appetite regulators in the brain.

The research, which was carried out in the animal model, was presented this week at the Australian Neuroscience Society Conference in Hobart.

The conference highlighted the pre-natal period as a critical time for the programming of post-natal and adult appetite.

International population studies suggest that about 30 per cent of women who become pregnant are overweight.

"Appetite is controlled by particular centres within the brain, and we are analysing data that suggests maternal food preferences during pregnancy can affect the food preferences of offspring," said Professor Morris.

"As brain control of appetite is likely set early in life, nutrient availability in the fetal or early post-natal period may contribute to adult obesity," she said.

"Increasing obesity in mothers represents a new metabolic challenge for many offspring.

"It's likely that maternal obesity can exert a programming effect on adult obesity and cardio-vascular disease in offspring, and more work is needed to dissect the underlying mechanisms," said Professor Morris.