Open Access Open Badges Research article

Diabetes in pregnancy among First Nations women in Alberta, Canada: a retrospective analysis

Richard T Oster14*, Malcolm King2, Donald W Morrish1, Maria J Mayan3 and Ellen L Toth1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

2 Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

3 Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

4 Department of Medicine, 4-030 Research Transition Facility, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2V2, Canada

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:136  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-136

Published: 10 April 2014



In addition to increasing the risk of adverse birth outcomes, diabetes in pregnancy is thought to be an important driver of the epidemic of type 2 diabetes affecting Canada’s First Nations population. The relative contributions of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and pre-existing diabetes are not well understood. We generated a comprehensive epidemiological profile of diabetes in pregnancy over a 10-year period among the First Nations population of Alberta, Canada.


De-identified administrative data for 427,058 delivery records were obtained for the years 2000–2009. Pregnancy risk factors and delivery outcomes were described and compared by ethnicity (First Nations vs. non-First Nations) and diabetes status. Age-adjusted prevalence values for GDM and pre-existing diabetes were calculated and were compared by ethnicity. Longitudinal changes over time were also examined. Predictors were explored using logistic regression analysis.


First Nations women had more antenatal risk factors and adverse infant outcomes that were compounded by diabetes. First Nations descent was an independent predictor of diabetes in pregnancy (p < 0.001). GDM prevalence was significantly higher among First Nations (6.1%) compared to non-First Nations women (3.8%; p < 0.001), but prevalence values increased significantly over time only in non-First Nations women (4.5 average annual percent change; p < 0.05). The prevalence of pre-existing diabetes was stable over time in both groups, but First Nations women experienced a 2.5-fold higher overall prevalence compared with non-First Nations women (1.5% vs. 0.6%, respectively; p < 0.001).


Although First Nations women experience a higher overall prevalence of diabetes in pregnancy, the lack of increase in the prevalence over time is encouraging. However, because high-risk pregnancies and poor outcomes are more common among First Nations women, particularly those with diabetes, strategies to improve perinatal care must be implemented.

Indigenous population; Gestational diabetes; Pregnancy in diabetes; Epidemiology; Retrospective study