Pregnant Latinas who experience the stress of immigration raids and deportation are more likely to have pre-mature births than other women. There is a correlation between immigration raids and low birthweight among newborns of Latina mothers. As Carolina Moreno reported in the Huffington Post, “As the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement tactics continue to escalate, researchers at Harvard University’s Chan School of Public Health have found that political rhetoric and policies that target specific immigrant groups may contribute to an increase in preterm births.”
The research emphasized that being a minority who is targeted constantly can significantly increase stress hormones. For many immigrant mothers, discrimination, trauma, and financial insecurity are daily stressors. In turn, a mother’s stress can affect a fetus by triggering premature birth, leading to growth restriction and low birthweight even for babies born at full term. It is well documented that preterm and low birthweight babies are more likely to have illnesses like cardiovascular disease and suffer from complications as they grow older.
As Diana N. Derige, national director of health initiatives for Urban Strategies, reported in Women’s eNews, “the protective health factors usually ascribed to Latinos, such as close family and social connections, healthy cultural norms and preventative care are under stress and waning.” Urban Strategies’ 2018 Latina Maternal and Child Health Review pointed to a growing body of evidence showing that a mother’s chronic stress during pregnancy increases the risk of low birthweight and preterm births and that this is cyclical: “We now know,” Derige wrote, “that female infants born preterm are at increased risk of having a preterm baby when they have children.”
By 2035, Latinas are projected to be nearly one in four of all American women, and by 2060 Latinas will form nearly a third of the nation’s female population. “What is happening in Latino health, particularly among the women and children,” Derige wrote, “is inextricably linked to the nation’s public health trajectory overall.”
Carolina Moreno, “Our Anti-Immigrant Atmosphere May be Contributing to Dangerous Birth Complications for Latinas.” Huffington Post, October 23, 2018, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/latinas-preterm-labor-immigrant-hate_us_5bce3130e4b0a8f17eef6d71.
Diana Derige, “Latina Health under Attack, as Anti-Immigrant Sentiment Worsens,” Women’s eNews, October 9, 2018, https://womensenews.org/2018/10/latina-health-under-attack-as-anti-immigrant-sentiment-worsens/.
Erika Stallings, “The Effects of Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric are Starting to Show in Preterm Birth Rates”, Rewire News, November 2, 2018, https://rewire.news/article/2018/11/02/the-effects-of-trumps-anti-immigrant-rhetoric-are-starting-to-show-in-preterm-birth-rates/.
Laurel Thomas, “Immigration fears among Latinos can impact baby size at birth,” University of Michigan, January 23, 2017, https://news.umich.edu/immigration-fears-among-latinos-can-impact-baby-size-at-birth/.
Student Researcher: Daisy Lara (Sonoma State University)
Community Evaluator: Adriana Hernandez (RN, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital)