Hispanic Women Proficient in English More Likely Than Peers To Give Birth Early, Study Finds
Hispanic women who had adopted the beliefs, values and behaviors of mainstream U.S. culture were four times more likely than their peers who were not as acculturated to give birth prematurely, according to a study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, Reuters Health reports. Previous research has shown low-income Hispanics are healthier than low-income, non-Hispanic women. Studies also have shown that as Hispanics living in the U.S. become more acculturated, their health declines, Reuters Health reports.
Study investigator R. Jeanne Ruiz of the University of Texas-Galveston Medical Branch and colleagues examined 468 low-income pregnant Hispanic women and used language proficiency as a measure for the women's level of acculturation. Women proficient in English were considered to be more acculturated than women who did not speak English as well. When the women were between 22 and 24 weeks' pregnant, researchers measured their levels of progesterone, a hormone considered essential for maintaining a healthy pregnancy, and estriol, a type of estrogen produced by the placenta.
According to the study, women proficient in English had lower levels of progesterone and were four times as likely as the other women to give birth prematurely. According to the researchers, women who were born outside the U.S., had not completed high school, were not proficient in English and had lived in the U.S. for fewer than 10 years were more likely to have higher levels of progesterone.
Ruiz said, "Whatever it is that's related to continuing to speak [Spanish] -- be it their relations with their families, their husbands, how they're eating, how they're dealing with their life -- we need to figure out what that is and help them maintain some of that." She added that the finding has a "potentially huge impact for public health" (Harding, Reuters Health, 2/5).
An abstract of the study is available online.