Hispanic Women Proficient In English More Likely To Give Birth Early

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Hispanicwomen who had adopted the beliefs, values and behaviors of mainstream U.S.culture were four times more likely than their peers who were not asacculturated to give birth prematurely, according to a study in the journal Obstetrics& Gynecology, ReutersHealth 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. becomemore acculturated, their health declines, Reuters Health reports.

Study investigator R. Jeanne Ruiz of the University ofTexas-Galveston Medical Branch and colleagues examined 468 low-income pregnant Hispanic women and usedlanguage proficiency as a measure for the women's level of acculturation. Womenproficient in English were considered to be more acculturated than women whodid not speak English as well. When the women were between 22 and 24 weeks'pregnant, researchers measured their levels of progesterone, a hormoneconsidered essential for maintaining a healthy pregnancy, and estriol, a typeof estrogen produced by the placenta.

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According to the study, women proficient in English had lower levels ofprogesterone and were four times as likely as the other women to give birthprematurely. According to the researchers, women who were born outside the U.S., had not completed high school, were notproficient in English and had lived in the U.S. for fewer than 10 years weremore 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'reeating, how they're dealing with their life -- we need to figure out what thatis and help them maintain some of that." She added that the finding has a"potentially huge impact for public health" (Harding, ReutersHealth, 2/5).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly HealthDisparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of TheHenry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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