Media Release

More than 1 in 10 immigrant women develop gestational diabetes

Toronto, October 4, 2011

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:

About ICES

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

About St. Michael’s

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 23 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, and care of the homeless are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Center, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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