Does gestation vary by ethnic group? A London-based study of over 122,000 pregnancies with spontaneous onset of labour

Int J Epidemiol. 2004 Feb;33(1):107-13. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyg238.

Abstract

Background: Evidence exists that normal gestational length varies with ethnicity. This UK-based study compares gestational length amongst a cohort of white European, Black and Asian women.

Methods: The cohort comprised 122 415 nulliparous women with singleton live fetuses at the time of spontaneous labour, giving birth in the former North West Thames Health Region, London, UK.

Results: The median gestational age at delivery was 39 weeks in Blacks and Asians and 40 weeks in white Europeans. Black women with normal body mass index (BMI) (18.5-24.9 kg/m(2)) had increased odds of preterm delivery (odds ratio [OR] = 1.33, 95% CI: 1.15, 1.56, adjusted for deprivation and BMI) compared with white Europeans. The OR of preterm delivery was also increased in Asians compared with white Europeans (OR = 1.45, 95% CI: 1.33, 1.56, adjusted for single unsupported status and smoking). Meconium stained amniotic fluid, which is a sign of fetal maturity, was statistically significantly more frequent in preterm Black and Asian infants and term Black infants compared with white European infants.

Conclusions: This research suggests that normal gestational length is shorter in Black and Asian women compared with white European women and that fetal maturation may occur earlier.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asians
  • Blacks
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Gestational Age*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Length of Stay
  • Pregnancy
  • Racial Groups / ethnology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Whites