After Trump’s election, more Latina moms gave birth early

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A significant jump in preterm births to Latina mothers living in the US occurred in the nine months following the election of President Donald Trump, a new study shows.

The new analysis, based on US government data of more than 33 million live births in the country, found an excess of 2,337 preterm births to US Latinas compared to expected given trends in preterm birth in the years prior to the election—an increase of roughly 3.5%.

Preterm birth, defined as before 37 weeks of gestation, is linked to a wide range of negative health consequences, including a greater risk of death in infancy and developmental problems later in life.

“The 2016 election, following campaign promises of mass deportation and the rollback of policies such as DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, may have adversely affected the health of Latinas and their newborns,” says first author Alison Gemmill, an assistant professor in the population, family, and reproductive health department at the Bloomberg School at Johns Hopkins University.

Researchers know that stress in pregnant women can bring an elevated risk of preterm birth. Prior studies suggest that anti-immigrant policies or actions can stress immigrant women and/or make them less likely to seek prenatal care.

Moreover, although most Latinas living in the US are citizens or otherwise documented immigrants would not be directly threatened by tighter policies for undocumented immigrants, they are very likely to have close friends or family members who would be threatened by such policies, researchers say.

For the new analysis in JAMA Network Open, Gemmill and colleagues used a database from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that covers essentially all live births in the US.

First, they tracked preterm births to self-identified Latina women over the previous administration, January 2009 to October 2016. They then used those data to generate an estimate of expected preterm births during the following nine months, from November 2016 to July 2017.

Next, they compared those expected numbers to the actual numbers of preterm births to Latina women during the nine months after the election. The researchers found there were 1,342 preterm births of male infants above the expected number of 36,828, and 995 preterm births of female infants above the expected 30,687.

The analysis also revealed peaks in excess preterm births in February and July of 2017 for both male and female infants, which hints that infants conceived in the second trimester of gestation at the time of the election may have been particularly vulnerable to maternal stress.

“We’ve known that government policies, even when they’re not health policies per se, can affect people’s health, but it’s remarkable that an election and the associated shift in presidential tone appears to have done so,” Gemmill says.

Source: Johns Hopkins University