Gestational diabetes and ultrasound-assessed fetal growth in South Asian and White European women: findings from a prospective pregnancy cohort

Judith Brand, Jane West, Derek Tuffnell, Philippa Bird, John Wright, Kate M Tilling, Debbie A Lawlor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
248 Downloads (Pure)


Maternal gestational diabetes (GDM) is an established risk factor for large size at birth, but its influence on intrauterine fetal growth in different ethnic populations is less well understood. Here, we examine the joint associations of GDM and ethnicity with longitudinal fetal growth in South Asian and White European origin women.
This study included 10,705 singletons (4747 White European and 5958 South Asian) from a prospective cohort of women attending an antenatal clinic in Bradford, in the North of England. All women completed a 75-g oral glucose tolerance test at 26–28 weeks’ gestation. Ultrasound measurements of fetal head circumference (HC), femur length (FL) abdominal circumference (AC), and estimated fetal weight (EFW), and corresponding anthropometric measurements at birth were used to derive fetal growth trajectories. Associations of GDM and ethnicity with these trajectories were assessed using multilevel fractional polynomial models.
Eight hundred thirty-two pregnancies (7.8%) were affected by GDM: 10.4% of South Asians and 4.4% of White Europeans. GDM was associated with a smaller fetal size in early pregnancy [differences (95% CI) in mean HC at 12 weeks and mean AC and EFW at 16 weeks comparing fetuses exposed to GDM to fetuses unexposed (reference) = − 1.8 mm (− 2.6; − 1.0), − 1.7 mm (− 2.5; − 0.9), and − 6 g (− 10; − 2)] and a greater fetal size from 24 weeks’ gestation through to term [differences (95% CI) in mean HC, AC, and EFW comparing fetuses exposed to GDM to those unexposed = 0.9 mm (0.3; 1.4), 0.9 mm (0.2; 1.7), and 7 g (0; 13) at 24 weeks]. Associations of GDM with fetal growth were of similar magnitude in both ethnic groups. Growth trajectories, however, differed by ethnicity with South Asians being smaller than White Europeans irrespective of GDM status. Consequently, South Asian fetuses exposed to GDM were smaller across gestation than fetuses of White Europeans without GDM.
In both ethnic groups, GDM is associated with early fetal size deviations prior to GDM diagnosis, highlighting the need for novel strategies to diagnose pregnancy hyperglycemia earlier than current methods. Our findings also suggest that ethnic-specific fetal growth criteria are important in identifying hyperglycemia-associated pathological effects.
Original languageEnglish
Article number203
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2018


  • Gestational diabetes
  • Fetal growth
  • Ethnicity
  • Longitudinal trajectory analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'Gestational diabetes and ultrasound-assessed fetal growth in South Asian and White European women: findings from a prospective pregnancy cohort'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this