Interracial Asian-White Couples Have Distinct Pregnancy Outcomes

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Couples in which one of the partners is Asian and the other is white have distinct pregnancy-related outcomes when compared with white couples, according to a study published in the October issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reuters Health reports. The study, by researchers from Stanford University's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and the university's School of Medicine, looked at 3,226 Asian couples, 5,575 white couples and 868 couples with a partner of each race who delivered at the hospital from 2000 to 2005 (Reuters Health, 10/1).

Among couples with a partner of each race, 4% of the women developed gestational diabetes, compared with 1.6% of women in white couples and 5.7% of Asian couples. Gestational diabetes is a "known risk factor" for Asian couples and "thought to be linked to a genetic predisposition," according to the Los Angeles Times. Researchers found that couples with one Asian partner and one white partner had an increased risk for the disease regardless of which partner was Asian.

Researchers also found that 33% of Asian women who had a white partner had a caesarean, compared with 23% of couples where the woman was white and the man was Asian. The higher rate of c-sections "is thought to be linked to body type," because Asian women tend to have smaller pelvises than white women, the Times reports (Roan, Los Angeles Times, 10/1).

Researchers said, "Our study demonstrates that interracial Asian-Caucasian couples represent a population with distinct perinatal risks, with differing risks depending upon which parent is of Asian race," adding, "Further research into interracial couples may she[d] light onto the effects of genetics [versus] environment on perinatal outcomes" (Reuters Health, 10/1).

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Opinion Piece

The results of the study show that "[w]hile it's great to be colorblind at cocktail parties and at the ballot box, women and their doctors should be talking about race and ethnicity," Deborah Kotz, senior editor for U.S. News & World Report, writes in the "On Women" blog, adding that "[m]ore research certainly is warranted."

Kotz says that the findings on gestational diabetes are "intriguing," noting that researchers are considering additional studies to determine whether pregnant Asian women should undergo earlier screenings for gestational diabetes than other pregnant women. She also notes research looking at differences in breast cancers among black women who are descendents from different parts of Africa.

Kotz writes, "Focusing on someone's race or ethnicity, whether in politics or social settings, is widely frowned upon these days -- a very good thing," adding, "In medicine, though, your ethnic background can play a crucial role in determining certain health risks" (Kotz, "On Women," U.S. News & World Report, 10/1).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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