Furthest Right

Why your race matters to your health

Sometimes, ethnic differences can pose risks for a couple. I was quite surprised by a new finding showing that Asian women married to white men had a 30 percent higher rate of cesarean sections compared with Asian or white couples and white women married to Asian men. The researchers gave a plausible reason why: Previous studies have shown that the average Asian woman’s pelvis is smaller than the average white woman’s and thus less able to accommodate babies of a certain size. “We’re certainly not concluding that these women always need C-sections,” says study coauthor Yasser El-Sayed, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Stanford University Medical Center. But he would be less likely to allow a prolonged labor to continue for hours in such women because a vaginal delivery would be very unlikely.

The study, published in the October issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, also found that pregnant women who were part of an Asian-white couple had a higher rate of gestational diabetes than those who were part of a white-white couple, a nearly 4 percent risk compared to a 1.6 percent risk for white couples. Asian couples, known to have higher rates of diabetes, had nearly a 6 percent risk. What’s intriguing is that white women married to Asian men also had higher rates of gestational diabetes compared with those married to white men, possibly due to a genetic characteristic in the fetus that triggers some sort of interaction with the mother. “It could be that these women should be screened in the first trimester for gestational diabetes instead of waiting until 24 to 28 weeks, but we’ll need additional studies before we know that for certain,” says El-Sayed.

Why Your Race Matters to Your Health by Deborah Kotz

You rarely see it expressed this clearly, but each race and ethnicity is a divergence from the evolutionary tree into specialized territory. Mix specialized things, and you get confusion, then an average.


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