Vietnamese mothers in Orange County are more likely to have their infants born preterm, at a low birth weight or requiring neonatal intensive care than white and Latina mothers, according to a report by MOMS Orange County, a group that provides prenatal assistance to women who are pregnant or who recently delivered.

The report also showed that nearly a quarter of the Vietnamese mothers served by MOMS had or were at risk of gestational diabetes, which experts at MOMS said could be contributing to the birth outcomes disparity. Another factor could be the average age of the Vietnamese mothers in the study, 33, which was higher than the average for white and Latina mothers, the experts said.

A pattern of higher rates of gestational diabetes among Orange County’s Asian population was also highlighted in a report by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The report found that Asians and Pacific Islanders together had the highest incidence of gestational diabetes, 10.6 percent, among racial and ethnic groups in the county. The figure for the next highest group, Latinos, was 7.3 percent, followed by whites at 5.4 percent and blacks at 4.8 percent.

The county report, “Increased Incidence of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in Orange County: 2000-2009,” noted that Asians and Pacific Islanders also saw the highest rise in gestational diabetes cases over the last 10 years.

Scientists are still working to determine the exact link between gestational diabetes and other forms of the illness. Many women who have gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes later, according to the American Diabetes Association.

In general, high rates of diabetes — both gestational and type 2 — among Asian-Americans “is perplexing the experts,” said Michele Silva, chief development officer at MOMS Orange County. “Asians don’t always have the traditional risk factors, such as high BMI [body mass index].”


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