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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Berkeley: Latina Mothers Experienced Jump in Preterm Births After 2016 Election

Latina mothers living in the United States experienced a significant jump in preterm births in the nine months following the Nov. 8, 2016, election, according to a study by researchers at UC Berkeley and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The analysis, based on U.S. government data on more than 33 million live births in the country, found an excess of 2,337 preterm births to U.S. Latina mothers, compared to projections about preterm birth rates.

“Elections have consequences on things beyond our pocketbooks and our debates about policy: They actually can affect our basic biology, and here is an example of that,” said study co-author Dr. Ralph Catalano, a professor of public health at University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, was prompted by smaller studies that had suggested adverse, stress-related health effects among Latin Americans in the United States after the Trump election. The analysis revealed peaks in excess preterm births in February and July of 2017 for both male and female infants, which hints that infants conceived or 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,” said study first author Dr. Alison Gemmill, assistant professor in the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health at the Bloomberg School, who received her PhD from Berkeley in 2017.

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