Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ethnicity Plays Role in Obstetric Risks

Ethnicity Plays Role in Obstetric Risks
It could affect odds for underweight newborn, U.S. study suggests

FRIDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- Ethnicity-linked differences between U.S.-born women of varying backgrounds can affect pregnancy outcomes, a new study finds.

For example, even though U.S.-born Asian-Indian women have fewer risk factors, they're more likely to deliver low birth weight babies than Mexican-American women.

"Now we see that the daughters of foreign-born women have similar issues and that the indicators we have traditionally used to predict pregnancy outcomes -- maternal educational level and age, and access to early prenatal care, for example -- aren't reliable for every population," researcher Dr. Ashima Madan of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

The study confirms previous research that found a similar pattern in more recent immigrants and also suggests that doctors need to factor in their patients' ethnic backgrounds when planning pregnancy care.

The findings appear in the March issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

Madan's team analyzed data on more than six million births in 11 states between 1995 and 2000 to white, foreign and U.S.-born Asian-Indian and Mexican women.

Asian-Indian women were more than twice as likely as white women to have low birth weight infants. Mexican-American women fared a bit better than Asian-Indian women.

The study also found that Asian-Indian women were more likely than either Mexican-American or white women to have diabetes, which, in severe cases, can restrict fetal growth.

Other factors that may affect fetal growth include maternal birth weight; stress, attitudes toward pregnancy; family support; and other biological risk factors in addition to diabetes.

Low birth weight babies often require more intensive medical care and longer stays in hospital after birth. They're at increased risk for a number of medical problems in adulthood, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

"Our findings point out how much more we have to learn about fetal growth and well-being. Hopefully by continuing to study these populations, we may identify new interventions that improve perinatal outcomes for women of all ethnic backgrounds," Madan said.

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