A recent study in the JAMA Network Open linked the 2016 U.S. presidential election to an increase in preterm births among U.S. Latina Women.
According to the researchers:
Given the rhetoric and policies promised under the Trump presidential campaign, the 2016 presidential election has been proposed as a significant stressor in the lives of US immigrants, their families, and their communities, with potentially uniquely acute effects on the US Latino population…. Our results suggest that the 2016 US presidential election was associated with an increase in preterm births among US Latina women.
After analyzing all U.S. births from 2009 to 2017, the researchers “observed approximately 3.2% to 3.6% more preterm births to Latina women above expected levels of preterm births had the election not occurred.”
This significant increase in the number of preterm births among U.S. Latina women coincided with the 2016 US presidential election. According the the study, this jump “appeared most pronounced for infants conceived or in their second trimester of gestation near the time of the election.”
Although the researchers did not differentiate between “native and non-native” Latinas, factors such as knowing people who are undocumented, being members of mixed-status families, and racial profiling concerns could still cause stress to pregnant Latina women.
This study inspires more conversation about immigration reform and how to discuss and approach it.
If President Trump adjusted the way he discussed immigration reform, would pregnant Latina women feel less stressed?
Would pregnant Latina women still feel stressed about any discussion of immigration reform, even without inflammatory rhetoric?
Furthermore, the research highlights a need for more research to understand the political beliefs of pregnant Latina women before and after the election.
Here is where both a quantitative and qualitative approach help to understand the depth of a phenomenon.
As I have written elsewhere, the political views of Latino voters in the United States do not point to an overwhelming majority of liberal beliefs:
In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that 21% of Millennial Latino voters described their political views as conservative, 38% as moderate, and 37% as liberal.
Among non-Millennial Latino voters, 40% described their political views as conservative, while 35% said they were moderate, and 21% said they were liberal. Overall, 32% described their political views as conservative. 36% as moderate, and 28% as liberal.
Regardless of the majority of Latino voters affiliating with the Democrat party, I think that the fairly even distribution of political views helps to better understand why various Latinos might not approach the immigration issue according to prevailing liberal expectations.
I am curious about exploring a variety of factors surrounding the election and how they might have impacted pregnant Latina women. For example, the number of pregnant Latina women who voted for Trump and their feelings about their choices could help understand if/how their own political activity contributed to stress. Studying their political media consumption and the frequency/types of conversations about the election can add another layer of insight into this issue.
Stress is Stress
This study is situated among other work that explores possible connections between the election and health(care) outcomes for pregnant Latina women.
For example, a Harvard study found that New York City preterm birthrates for Latina women with Central American and Mexican ancestry significantly increased from 7.3% to 8.4% before and after the 2016 election.
Other researchers found an association between anti-immigration rhetoric and adequate and timely prenatal healthcare in 24,933 deliveries in Houston, Texas.
National and international crises can be sources of stress and have as much impact on health outcomes as interpersonal stressors. One study found an increase in preterm births after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Stress from sociopolitical sources warrant serious attention because our bodies do not make a distinction between political, familial, or work stressors.
Stress is stress.
In addition to concerns for the mothers’ health, I empathize with pregnant Latina women who felt stressed because of the immediate and long-term health of their babies.
Responsibility and Blame
The President of the United States carries much responsibility for leading masses of people. The person occupying this role has tremendous influence over the tone and direction of our country.
Therefore, the formal leaders of this nation are to be held to a high standard in what they say and do.
Also, if people uncritically consume fear-mongering or biased news and listen to worried family and friends about what they uncritically consume from fear-mongering or biased news, chances are they might feel stressed out.
Blaming the President or an election becomes low-hanging fruit that discourages any individual responsibility.
Do you remember in our not so distant past when blaming President Obama for things such as the weather, bad hair days, and anything people disliked about their lives became a trend? For instance, One-third of Louisiana Republicans had blamed President Obama for the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane Katrina happened about 3 years prior to his election.
Then, there were the food fights, from teens blaming First Lady Michelle Obama for their “nasty lunches” to the Navy blaming her for replacing their fried chicken with baked chicken. The ways certain people hold politicians accountable can benefit from accountability.
Everyone did not feel stressed by the 2016 presidential election and outcome.
As a matter of fact, this week, President Trump held a rally in Cincinnati with a stadium filled with excited people.
This observation might cause stress to one and inspire another person under the same roof.
Is it the election that causes stress or could it be the ways various individuals consume and handle the mainstream and social media coverage—the public and private discourse that contributes to stress?
Maybe it is both.
Or it might be the real fear of one’s family being torn apart.