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Prenatal Care and Birth Outcomes Among Latina Women: What Do We Know?. Oregon Latina Prenatal Summit Providence St. Vincent’s Hospital September 19, 2003 Michael McGlade, PhD Western Oregon University Salem, Oregon Somnath Saha, MD, MPH Portland VA Medical Center Portland, Oregon.

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prenatal care and birth outcomes among latina women what do we know

Prenatal Care and Birth Outcomes Among Latina Women:What Do We Know?

Oregon Latina Prenatal Summit

Providence St. Vincent’s Hospital

September 19, 2003

Michael McGlade, PhD

Western Oregon University

Salem, Oregon

Somnath Saha, MD, MPH

Portland VA Medical Center

Portland, Oregon


Goal: to examine data and research that suggest paths towards the expansion of prenatal care for Latinas, given the current fiscal environment

why did the latino population grow more rapidly in oregon than other pnw states
Why did the Latino population grow more rapidly in Oregon than other PNW states?
  • Oregon’s growth was concentrated in the northern Willamette Valley and Portland Metro counties, where a high demand for farm worker labor happened to be near the Portland and Salem labor markets.
  • The geographic proximity of labor intensive agriculture and cities resulted in farm worker labor networks feeding urban labor markets. Idaho and Washington did not experience this process to such a degree.
oregon latinos
  • 4 of 5 are of Mexican origin
  • poverty rates are among highest in the US
  • over half have less than a high school education
  • most have family roots in rural Mexican communities
  • worldview and lifeways in rapid transition from collectivism (Latin American) to individualism
oregon latinos cont
Oregon Latinos (cont.)
  • are growing more rapidly than any other major ethnic group in Oregon
  • currently comprise nearly 9% of Oregon’s total population, but are 16% of total births
  • births more than doubled in past decade
  • are more youthful and have higher birth rates than the other major ethnic groups
barriers to getting prenatal care
Barriers to Getting Prenatal Care
  • Low income
  • Lack of insurance
  • Documented status & related fears
  • Low levels of formal education
  • Lack of awareness of prenatal care or need for prenatal care
  • Cultural differences
  • Language
  • Discrimination
lack of insurance
Lack of Insurance

At the time of your 1st pregnancy test,

were you insured for prenatal care?

Oregon PRAMS 2000

lack of perceived need
Lack of Perceived Need

Did you get prenatal care as early as you wanted?

Oregon PRAMS 2000

who is providing prenatal care
Who Is Providing Prenatal Care?

Where did you go most of the time for prenatal care?

Oregon PRAMS 2000

participation in wic
Participation in WIC

How many weeks pregnant at time of 1st WIC visit?


Oregon PRAMS 2000

discrimination in prenatal care
Discrimination in Prenatal Care

Do you think you were treated differently by health care providers during prenatal care, labor or delivery because of your :

Oregon PRAMS 2000

maternal and infant outcomes
Maternal and Infant Outcomes
  • Compared with non-Latina white women, Latinas in the U.S. have:
    • 34% higher rate of maternity-related deaths
    • 3-fold higher rate of gestational diabetes
    • Slightly higher rate of preterm delivery
  • Despite lower income and less prenatal care than non-Latino whites, Latinos have:
    • Similar rates of low birth weight (LBW)
    • Similar rates of infant mortality
  • AND…when compared to African-American women with similar income, Latinos have:
    • Much lower rates of LBW
    • Much lower rates of infant mortality
does prenatal care make a difference in latino birth outcomes
Does Prenatal Care Make a Difference in Latino Birth Outcomes?
  • A national study of 1.1 million Mexican-American births found that infant mortality rates were 2.5 times greater for those who did not get prenatal care vs. those who did
  • Prenatal care matters most for U.S.-born Latinas

Zukevas, A, Wells BL, Lefkowitz B. Mexican American infant mortality rate: implications for public policy. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. 2000;11:243-257

prenatal care makes economic sense
Prenatal Care Makes Economic Sense
  • A California study showed that for every dollar cut from prenatal care for undocumented women, $3.33 in postnatal costs were accrued

Lu MC, Lin YG, Prietto, NM, Garite TJ. Elimination of public funding of prenatal care for undocumented immigrants in California: a cost/benefit analysis. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology;2000;182:233-239


Why Latinas overall do not have worse birthing outcomes, given their high rates of poverty, lack of access to prenatal care, and other disadvantages:

  • Informal prenatal care systems
  • Cultural protective factors
what are informal prenatal care systems
What are informal prenatal care systems?
  • Supportive grandmothers and other maternal figures
  • Helpful extended family members and other community people
  • Life partners
  • Community-based parteras and health promoters
  • Others outside of the wage economy who provide a context for healthy maternity

Systems of Care and Support for Latina Mothers




health workers

immediate family


extended family






trusted community




informal systems of care make a difference
Informal Systems of Care Make a Difference
  • A growing body of evidence suggests that social support is the missing element in understanding why:
    • N. Europe has lower infant mortality than the US
    • Immigrant women have better birthing outcomes than their US born coethnics (Latinas & African origin women)
informal systems of care combine with cultural protective factors including
Informal systems of care combine with cultural protective factors, including:
  • healthy dietary traditions
  • strong cultural approval and support of maternity
  • the expectation of self-sacrificing motherhood (marianismo)
  • the cultural prohibition of unhealthy behaviors for mothers such as drinking and smoking

The beneficial effects of cultural protective factors and informal systems of care tend to erode with acculturation to the “descending limb” of US mass culture…Birthing outcomes worsen, and the formal medical system ends up picking up some of the costs.

negative effects of acculturation
Negative Effects of Acculturation
  • In a study of 22,872 Mexican American births in Illinois:
    • Mexican immigrant women in low income census tracts had low birth weight rates of 3%
    • US born women of Mexican ancestry in the same census tracts had low birth weight rates of 14%

Collins JW, Shay, DK. Prevalence of Low Birth Weight among Hispanic infants with Unites States-born and foreign-born mothers: the effect of urban poverty. Am J Epidemiol 1994;139:184-192

Indirect yet strong evidence of the positive role of a supportive Latino community, and the protective effects of Mexican culture, comes from a study of over 1 million Southwest US Mexican-American infants:
  • Mortality ranged from 4.3 in counties with high proportions of Mexican births, to 5.5 in counties with low proportions of Mexican births.
  • However, this community context association was limited to US-born Mexican mothers, whose rates ranged from 7.0 in low concentration counties to 4.4 in high concentration counties. For births to Mexico-born mothers, there was no association between community context and mortality.

Jenny AM, Schoendorf KC, Parker JD. The association between community context and mortality among Mexican-American infants. Ethnicity and Disease. 2001;11:722-731

  • Formal and informal prenatal care improve birthing outcomes
  • Acculturation erodes informal systems of care and cultural protective factors
  • Health systems that integrate some components of the informal systems of care might save lives & money!