Rates of preterm births in New York City increased after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, particularly among foreign-born Hispanic women, suggesting that severe sociopolitical stressors contributed to the increase, according to a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and conducted in collaboration with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Comparing preterm birth rates in New York City before and after the 2016 election, the study found that overall rates increased from 7 percent to 7.3 percent But the rate among Latina women with Mexican or Central American ancestry jumped from 7.3 percent to 8.4 percent. There was no statistically significant increase in preterm births among mothers born in the U.S., the study found.
Previous evidence has shown that stress can increase the likelihood of a woman delivering a premature baby; for example, there were increases in premature births after 9/11. Premature babies are more likely than full-term babies to suffer from numerous health problems throughout their lives.
The new study suggested that Trump administration policies and rhetoric may have contributed to the recent increase in preterm birth rates. “[This] is an outcome that can be affected by psychosocial stressors experienced during the pregnancy,” said Dr. Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study.