Gestational Diabetes Risk Higher for Asian-White Couples

FRIDAY Oct. 3, 2008 -- Couples made up of one Asian and one white partner may face an increased risk of gestational diabetes and a higher risk of Caesarean delivery, say researchers at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and the Stanford University School of Medicine.

In a study published in the October issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers looked at data from white, Asian, and Asian-white couples who delivered at the Johnson Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Services at Packard Children's from 2000 to 2005. During that time, 5,575 white, 3,226 Asian, and 868 Asian-white couples delivered babies at the hospital.

"There's great heterogeneity in our country; there are people of many different races and backgrounds," co-author Yasser El-Sayed, an obstetrician at Packard Children's and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the medical school, said in a Stanford news release. "Gaining better insight into the risks facing specific populations provides for better counseling and better prenatal care."

The researchers found that white mothers whose partners were Asian fathers had the lowest rate -- 23 percent -- of Caesarean delivery. Asian mother/white father couples, on the other hand, had the highest rate, with 33 percent of pregnancies resulting in Caesarean deliveries.

The reason for the discrepancy? The researchers say that since the birth weights between the two groups is similar, the increased rate of Caesarean deliveries among Asian mother/white couples may be because the average Asian woman's pelvis is smaller than the average white woman's pelvis. Therefore, Asian women may be less likely to be able to accommodate babies of a certain size.

The researchers also found that the rate of gestational diabetes was lowest among white couples (1.6 percent) and highest among Asian couples (5.7 percent). For Asian-white couples, the rate of gestational diabetes was just under 4 percent.

Previous studies have found an increased risk of diabetes among Asian couples, which has been attributed to genetics. The results of this study are particularly interesting, since the risk of gestational diabetes was about the same regardless of which person was Asian.

These findings are important for health-care professionals who are counseling women about their pregnancy risks, the researchers said.

"One has to factor in as many relevant variables as possible when you counsel a patient about pregnancy," said El-Sayed. "We've shown in this paper that if you have an interracial couple, depending on which parent is of which race, there may be different relative risks of certain outcomes that could inform and enhance clinical management."

More information

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about pregnancy risks.

Posted: October 2008


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