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More than 1 in 10 immigrant women develop gestational diabetes

Toronto, October 4, 2011

Dr. Joel RayDr. Joel Ray

Gestational diabetes mellitus is a common form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. New research done at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and St. Michael’s Hospital shows it is more common among certain non-Caucasian ethnic groups. But previous studies have classified women using terms such as "Asian,” which disregards evident differences between South and East Asians in terms of genetics and diet.

“Maternal world region of birth may help us to better identify in early pregnancy those immigrant women at highest risk for developing GDM, and who might benefit from dietary and activity modification in early pregnancy,” said Dr. Joel Ray, a St. Michael’s physician and Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences researcher.

The study looked at the risk of GDM among a large and diverse group of 770,875 consecutive baby deliveries in Ontario, including 118,849 deliveries among immigrants, and found:

  • Canadian-born women had a 3 per cent rate of GDM.
  • Immigrant women from the Middle East and North Africa had a 1.7 times higher risk of developing GDM than Canadian-born women.
  • Women from East Asia had a two times higher risk of developing GDM than their Canadian-born counterparts.
  • Women from South Asia had a 3.5 times higher risk of GDM compared to Canadian-born women.

“These findings might also help in deciding which women should be screened for adult-onset (Type 2 diabetes), since GDM is a well recognized long-term risk factor for Type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Ray said.

The research letter “Gestational Diabetes among Immigrant Women,” is being published in the November issue of Epidemiology.

More detailed study findings on the ICES website:

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