Migration and deportation fears put Latinas at greater risk of anxiety, Illinois study shows

Vincent Lara-Cinisomo

The stress of migration and the fear of deportation is associated with greater prenatal anxiety in Latina immigrants, according to new research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The study, published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal and written by Kinesiology and Community Health assistant professor Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo, assessed the feasibility and acceptability of the Migration Experiences Survey, a newly-developed measure of migration and deportation fears and explored associations between those experiences and mental health in a sample of immigrant Latinas in the perinatal period.

The study looked at 25 Latina immigrant women in the third trimester of pregnancy who were recruited from community health clinics in Chapel Hill, N.C., between July 2013-14. The MES was given at eight weeks postpartum and found that more than 40 percent of the subjects had migration safety concerns and fears of deportation. The study showed an association between those risk factors and anxiety, highlighting the important dimensions of vulnerability in immigrant Latinas.

Traumatic migration experiences can be detrimental to all women of childbearing age, as these stressors may have lingering effects that increase the risk of perinatal depression and anxiety. Perinatal depression affects 9.8 percent to 22.7 percent of women in the United States and estimates of the prevalence of perinatal anxiety range from 2.6 percent to 39 percent. But Latinas may be at an even greater risk of mood disorders due to psychosocial stress, with rates for perinatal depression and anxiety as high as 60 percent and 19.4 percent, respectively.

This finding is particularly important given the current social-political climate that challenges the safety and mental health of perinatal immigrant Latinas, the researchers state.

“Given today’s threats of deportation and our evidence that those types of pressures compromise mother’s mental health, practitioners, community workers, researchers, and elected officials interested in protecting all mothers must unite to protect the mental health of vulnerable women in this country,” Lara-Cinisomo said.