Ethnic variation in postnatal assessments of gestational age: a reappraisal

Greg R. Alexander, Francois de Caunest, Thomas C. Hulsey, Mark E. Tompkins, Marilee Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Summary. While the possibility of an ethnic bias in postnatal assessments of gestational age has been suggested by several investigators, others have reported that postnatal assessments do not provide biased estimates in non‐White ethnic groups. In the light of this ongoing controversy, this study examines the validity of the Ballard postnatal assessment of gestational age by ethnicity, using a relatively large hospital data base that allows for the inspection of ethnic variations in the agreement between the Ballard assessment and last menstrual period (LMP). The results indicate that there is a greater over‐estimation of the LMP interval by the Ballard method in Blacks compared with Whites and suggest that systematic differences exist by ethnicity of mother in the agreement between the Ballard postnatal assessment and the LMP interval. After taking maternal characteristics and pregnancy complications into account, for a given gestational age interval, Blacks have on average a greater level of maturity as measured by Ballard. One interpretation of these findings is that postnatal assessments may provide biased overestimates of the LMP gestational age interval in certain ethnic groups. An alternative interpretation of these data is that the gestational age interval based on LMP is not a valid indicator of fetal maturity, readiness for birth and infant risk status across all ethnic groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-433
Number of pages11
JournalPaediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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