Researchers blame increase in Latino premature birth rate on Trump

They concluded that this was likely a result of ‘anti-immigrant’ stress caused by Trump.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Berkeley observed an increase in premature birth rates among women who gave birth after Donald Trump was elected.

University researchers are blaming an increase in preterm births among Latina women on President Donald Trump, citing stress from “threats of anti-immigrant legislation.”

A recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins professor Alison Gemmill, UC Berkeley professor Ralph Catalano, and UC Berkeley researcher Joan Casey found that preterm birth rates in Latina women pregnant during the 2016 election increased by around 3.5 percent. They then went so far as to conclude that this is likely directly related to stress caused by Trump’s election. 

The study set out from the beginning to draw a relationship between any increase in preterm birth rates among Latina mothers and Trump’s election, with the object of the study clearly stated as “To determine whether preterm births (gestational age, <37 weeks) among U.S. Latina women increased above expected levels after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

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Gemmill, Catalano, and Casey found that the preterm births among Latina women “increased above expected levels” after Trump was elected. The researchers claimed that previous studies have correlated immigration stress to decreases in mental health, stating that “the 2016 presidential election may have been associated with adverse health outcomes of Latina women and their newborns.”

When Campus Reform questioned Gemmill as to how the correlation in her study translated to causation, she pointed to an “emerging body of evidence,” which she says suggests that the election and surrounding circumstances “including heightened anti-immigrant rhetoric” and “threats of anti-immigrant legislation” may have had an impact on the American Latino population. 

Gemmill specifically cited evidence that “levels of self-reported anxiety among US Latinos increased after the election.”

“This may be because even among U.S.-born Latino Americans, about half report fearing that a family member or close friend might be deported under President Trump’s administration,” Gemmill told Campus Reform.

Gemmill also asserted that “research indicates that anti-immigrant stress and rhetoric are linked with negative health outcomes in the Latino population.” 

In order to demonstrate this point, she pointed to a previous study led by one of the co-authors of the study in question. According to Gemmill, this study “showed that worry about deportation was associated with negative cardiovascular disease risk factors in women.” 

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Gemmill also pointed to another study that compared instances of the phrases “Make America Great Again,” “Deportation,” and “Mexico Wall” online with the quality of prenatal care received by Latin American women. The study concluded that “recent anti-immigrant rhetoric is associated with adequate, timely, and regular access to prenatal care.”

The professor also noted that she and the coauthors had published similar research relating “macrosocial stressors,” like September 11 and economic recessions to negative birth outcomes. 

“A spike in preterm birth or other birth outcomes, therefore, could be evidence of exposure to a stressor,” she reiterated. 

As further evidence that Trump’s election and the preterm birthrates of Latina women are directly related, Gemmill emphasized that the increase observed “is unique to Latina women, and not shared by non-Latina women.”

“We find a higher response for male preterm births compared with female preterm births. Prior research and theory, including some of our own work, shows that males are more vulnerable to stressors experienced in utero,” Gemmill added. “This finding, therefore, provides additional support for a psychosocial mechanism that is unique to Latina women.”

Gemmill emphasized that the study employed “rigorous methods” to ensure that the observed association “was not due to normally occurring patterns in the data.”

In 2017, Johns Hopkins University received $2,178,605,000 in federal research funding while UC-Berkeley received $330,339,000. 

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