Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) affects up to 10% of pregnancies in Western societies. IUGR is a strong predictor of reduced short-term neonatal survival and impairs long-term health in children. Placental insufficiency is often associated with IUGR; however, the molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of placental insufficiency and IUGR are largely unknown. Here, we developed a mouse model of fetal-growth restriction and placental insufficiency that is induced by a midgestational stress challenge. Compared with control animals, pregnant dams subjected to gestational stress exhibited reduced progesterone levels and placental heme oxygenase 1 (Hmox1) expression and increased methylation at distinct regions of the placental Hmox1 promoter. These stress-triggered changes were accompanied by an altered CD8+ T cell response, as evidenced by a reduction of tolerogenic CD8+CD122+ T cells and an increase of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells. Using progesterone receptor- or Hmox1-deficient mice, we identified progesterone as an upstream modulator of placental Hmox1 expression. Supplementation of progesterone or depletion of CD8+ T cells revealed that progesterone suppresses CD8+ T cell cytotoxicity, whereas the generation of CD8+CD122+ T cells is supported by Hmox1 and ameliorates fetal-growth restriction in Hmox1 deficiency. These observations in mice could promote the identification of pregnancies at risk for IUGR and the generation of clinical interventional strategies.