Some Asian-American women at higher risk for diabetes during pregnancy

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Chinese-American and Korean-American women have far higher risks of developing diabetes during pregnancy compared with African American and white women, according to a study published in the December issue of the journal Ethnicity and Disease. The research, funded by the American Diabetes Association, expands on previous findings suggesting that Asian women and Pacific Islanders are at higher risk for gestational diabetes, a condition that impacts women during pregnancy and can have more long term effects on their babies. This latest study, which included 16,757 women from a variety of ethnic backgrounds living in Hawaii, found that more than 10% of Korean-American and Chinese-American women may be at risk for developing gestational diabetes, and that the risk for these groups is one third higher than the average, and more than double that of white and African American women.

Study participants ranged in age from 13 to 39, and gave birth between 1995 and 2003, and all women were screened for gestational diabetes during their sixth or seventh month of pregnancy. In total, while 20% of study participants had elevated blood glucose levels, 6.7% were actually diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Educating all pregnant women about the possibility of gestational diabetes, and potential risks of the condition—which can include complications during delivery and heightened risk for obesity later in life for their child—is important, researchers say, but these findings point to a need for improved and targeted education for specific ethnic groups at high risk for the condition.