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Deportation Fears Tied to Poor Birth Outcomes for Hispanics

After immigration raid, women had increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight babies, research contends

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WEDNESDAY, Jan. 25, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- The threat of deportation from the United States may put pregnant Hispanic women and their babies at risk, researchers suggest.

In their study, the researchers from the University of Michigan discovered that the chances of both preterm birth and having low birth weight babies went up for pregnant women affected by a large-scale federal immigration raid in Iowa in 2008.

The finding comes as many Hispanics' deportation and discrimination fears mount in the United States. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that calls for construction of the long-discussed border wall between America and Mexico.

The Postville, Iowa, immigration raid was one of the largest single-site raids in U.S. history. Officials arrested 389 workers at a meat-processing plant. Ninety-eight percent of those arrested, handcuffed and held in detention centers were Hispanic, the researchers said.

Hispanic babies born in the 37 weeks after the raid had a 24 percent higher risk of lower birth weight than those born the prior year. After the raid, Hispanic women also had an increased risk of preterm birth, the study found.

Low birth weight and preterm birth increase a newborn's risk of complications and long-term health problems, the study authors noted.

"While health disparities often are believed to be caused by differences in individual health behaviors, access to health care or even genetics, our findings implicate the impact of racial/ethnic stereotyping and related psychosocial stressors on health," said study author Arline Geronimus. She is a research professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research.

Co-author Nicole Novak, also from the Institute for Social Research, said, "In the wake of the Postville immigration raid, U.S.-born and immigrant Latino families feared deportations and follow-up raids, and faced increased economic and social marginalization."

In a university news release, Novak said that "these stressors permeated the lives of both U.S.-born and foreign-born Latina mothers, potentially activating harmful physiological responses that could result in the poor birth outcomes we documented among their babies."

However, while the study found an association, it could not prove that the raid caused these poor birth outcomes.

The study was published Jan. 24 in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

More information

The March of Dimes has more about low birth weight.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, Jan. 24, 2017


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