Among Puerto Ricans, immigrant status overrated as barrier to adequate prenatal care

Contrary to common perceptions, psychological factors, rather than the liabilities of migration from Puerto Rico, bar Puerto Rican women living in the United States from access to adequate prenatal health care, according to a team of Penn State researchers.

"Our data reveal that, for Puerto Rican women seeking prenatal care in a hospital or clinic, the paramount concerns are not the cost of care or cultural barriers to care," says Dr. Nancy S. Landale, professor of sociology in the College of the Liberal Arts.

"Instead, among the most frequently mentioned barriers to adequate prenatal care are those that signal psychological uncertainty about the pregnancy itself," notes Dr. R.S. Oropesa, associate professor of sociology. "These include the consideration of abortion, the desire to keep the pregnancy secret and the lack of awareness of the pregnancy. Aspects of the health care delivery system are relatively minor in importance."

Landale, Oropesa and doctoral students in sociology Michelle Inkley and Bridget K. Gorman are co-authors of the paper, "Prenatal Care among Mainland Puerto Ricans," presented today (Aug. 7) at the annual American Sociological Association meeting.

Their data are derived from the Puerto Rican Maternal and Infant Health Survey of mothers of infants sampled from 1994-95 birth and death certificates. The actual sample used by the researchers consisted of 1,255 Puerto Rican women residing in Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York City.

"Puerto Rican migrants in the United States, compared to the population at large, are admittedly at greater risk of low birth weights and infant mortality," says Oropesa. "Indeed, the baseline infant mortality rate for Puerto Rican infants stood at 12.9 per 1,000 births, compared to 10.1. for the U.S. population as a whole in 1984."

Landale notes, "Approximately 56 percent of our respondents indicated th

Contact: Paul Blaum
Penn State

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