Neural Tube Defects, Preterm Birth Found More Among Hispanic Women

According to a new report released by The March of Dimes, pregnant Hispanic women are more likely not only to have infants with neural tube defects, but also preterm birth.

The report, entitled, Maternal and Infant Health in US Hispanic Populations, states that preterm birth by Hispanic women account for at least 23.3% of all preterm births in the United States. Some experts speculate that it may be in part to the growing Hispanic population; in 2012, the rate of Hispanic births were 11.6% compared to a 10.3% of all other, non-Hispanic births.

Other experts, however, think that socioeconomic factors have a lot to do with the increased risks. For example, both lack of insurance and lack of education were both named in the report as reasons. Compared to White mothers, the report states that Hispanic women are 4 times less likely to complete 12 years of education and 2 times less likely to have insurance, which would afford them the prenatal care that may help reduce the heightened instances of neural tube defects and premature births.

The consumption of folic acid during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, has been shown to help prevent neural tube defects. However, the study suggests that thelack of proper prenatal care and lack of education and awareness of folic acid and its benefits contributes to the birth defect.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that Hispanic women were less likely to take prenatal vitamins during pregnancy. Although these rates vary according to each state, the average amount in all states is in the range of 27.5% compared to White pregnant women at 35.1%.

The report also goes over the diverse population that makes up Hispanic women in the United States, including women from Mexican, Puerto Rican, Central and South American, and Cuban. According to the results, pregnant women of Mexican descent have the lowest rates of premature deliveries, at just 11.1%.

Diet seems to also play a major role in birth defects and preterm birth. Corn masa flour is considered a staple in many Hispanic womens’ diet, contains no folic acid. Although it’s been rejected by the United States Foods and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1998 because of its lack of folic acid, corn masa flour also been a part of the tradition and lives of people for several generations. Dr. Diana Ramos, co-chair of the March of Dime’s Hispanic Advisory Council, suggests that diet change is a good start in helping women, but it’s difficult to make food changes.

“Corn masa flour is not part of the standard American diet, so, since 2012, we’ve been working on this, making progress slowly,” says Dr. Ramos.