Immigration Fears Among Latinos Can Impact Baby Size at Birth

Medical Xpress, January 24, 2017

With deportation and discrimination fears currently on the minds of many in the United States, a University of Michigan study shows that the stress from an historic immigration raid is associated with Latina mothers delivering babies with lower birth weights, and sometimes early.

The U-M School of Public Health and Institute of Social Research team found that after the federal immigration raid in Postville, Iowa, in 2008, Latino babies born in the 37 weeks after the event had a 24 percent greater risk of lower birth weight than babies born the prior year. There also was an increased risk in preterm birth among Latina mothers compared with non-Latina white women.

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In one of the largest single-site raids in U.S. history, federal immigration officials used military tactics to arrest 389 employees of a meat-processing plant in the small Iowa community. Ninety-eight percent of those arrested, handcuffed and held in various detention centers were Latino, as all were initially suspected to be undocumented immigrants.

“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,” Novak said. “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.”

“Our findings, then, shed light on what is to come for our nation’s health if we continue down this road of anti-immigrant rhetoric and continue fueling a deportation regime, including implementing it by criminalizing immigrants and using militaristic tactics,” Martinez-Cardoso said.

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