In the present pilot study, we evaluated the effect of maternal adiposity on the plasma concentration of adipocytokines in pregnant women and their newborns. Twenty patients with term gestations without labour were initially selected by pregestational BMI and then classified into two study groups (n 10 each), according to their median value of adiposity (total body fat). Concentrations of TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, leptin and adiponectin in plasma of maternal peripheral blood and fetal cord blood were measured and correlated to maternal adiposity. Maternal adiposity showed a significant negative correlation with fetal adiponectin (r − 0·587, P = 0·01) and IL-6 (r − 0·466, P = 0·05), a significant positive correlation with maternal leptin (r 0·527, P = 0·02) and no correlation with TNF-α or IL-1β. Adiponectin was higher in fetal plasma than in maternal plasma (P = 0·043), but significantly lower in newborns from women with high adiposity than in newborns from women with low adiposity (P = 0·040). Our results suggest that fetuses from obese women may be less able to control inflammation, due to lower circulating anti-inflammatory adipocytokines, which could limit their optimal development or even increase the risk of abortion or preterm labour.