Certain birth defects more common among hispanics

by Maureen Salamon, Healthday Reporter
Certain birth defects more common among hispanics: report
Unfortified corn masa flour may contribute to neural tube defects, March of Dimes says.

(HealthDay)—Hispanic mothers are at especially high risk of having newborns with serious birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects, according to a new report.

Also, more babies are born prematurely to Hispanics than women of other ethnicities, the March of Dimes report states.

This report, updating a similar 2008 paper by the nonprofit foundation, also highlights the fact that a greater proportion of Hispanic women have babies each year than any other population in the United States, making it the fastest-growing ethnic group in the country.

"One of the things that caught our eye was, while Hispanics represent 17 percent of the population, 24 percent of are Hispanic," said Dr. Edward McCabe, and chief medical officer of the March of Dimes, an organization aimed at improving the health of mothers and babies.

Hispanic women may be more prone to giving birth prematurely—defined as before the 37th week of pregnancy—because of risk factors such as being three times as likely as white mothers to be younger than 17 years old. They are also less likely to have graduated from high school and more likely to lack health insurance. The rate of preterm births among Hispanics was about 12 percent higher than that of white mothers in 2012, the report said.

Neural tube defects, which include conditions such as spina bifida and anencephaly, are malformations of the brain and spinal cord that can cause death or disability.

Experts suggested that Hispanic mothers are significantly more likely to give birth to babies with these than white or black women because corn masa flour is a staple of the diet of a majority of Hispanics. Corn masa flour, used to make tortillas and other foods, is not fortified with , a B vitamin that can help prevent . Wheat flour manufacturers are required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fortify that type of flour with folic acid, also called folate.

Also, Hispanic women are less likely to report taking a multivitamin containing folic acid prior to becoming pregnant, according to the report.

"This is why the March of Dimes is striving to have masa cornmeal fortified with folate," said Dr. Diana Ramos, an associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles.

"Corn masa flour is not part of the standard American diet, so, since 2012, we've been working on this, making progress slowly," added Ramos, co-chair of the newly established March of Dimes Hispanic Advisory Council.

McCabe said the March of Dimes has launched a Spanish-language site, Nacersano.org, that offers information about the specific health needs of Hispanics. He said a variety of outreach efforts, including the website and new advisory council, are needed to help raise awareness in the Hispanic community about the need for folic acid consumption and prenatal health.

Other health literacy efforts aimed at Hispanics should focus on tackling smoking, obesity and type 2 diabetes, he said.

"By 2050, it's projected that 30 percent of the population of of childbearing age will be Hispanic," he said. "Clearly, it's a growing population."

More information: The Nemours Foundation has more about birth defects.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US preterm birth rate drops to 15-year low

Nov 01, 2013

Six states – Alaska, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont – earned an "A" on the March of Dimes 2013 Premature Birth Report Card as their preterm birth rates met the March of Dimes 9.6 ...

Number of induced labors falling in US, CDC says

Jun 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—After almost two decades of steady increases, the number of U.S. infants born early due to induced labor and C-section has declined in recent years, according to a new report from the Centers ...

Recommended for you

Vitamin D may not prevent return of vaginosis after all

Oct 29, 2014

(HealthDay)—A new study suggests that high doses of vitamin D may not help prevent the return of bacterial vaginosis (BV). The research was published in the November issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Eating disorders linked to adverse perinatal outcomes

Oct 22, 2014

(HealthDay)—Maternal eating disorders are associated with adverse pregnancy, obstetric, and perinatal health outcomes, according to a study published in the October issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.