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Babies of immigrant parents have higher risk of stillbirth: Canadian study | Globalnews.ca

As immigration to Canada increases, a new study suggests babies born to immigrant parents are at increased risk of birth complications.

The stillbirth rate, which is the death of the fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy or at a birth weight of at least 500 grams, was higher among immigrant parents than among native Canadians, says a study published in the journal Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ) Tuesday.

The likelihood of a preterm birth if the child is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy was also higher among immigrant parents admitted to Canada through economic and family reunification and among refugees.

Researchers from McGill University and the Université de Montréal examined Statistics Canada data on nearly eight million Canadian births – 21 percent of which were to immigrants – over a 25-year period between 1993 and 2017.

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“We found differences in outcomes not only between Canadian-born parents and immigrants, but also by admission category among immigrants“,” said Seungmi Yang, co-author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Medicine at McGill University, in an interview with Global News.


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“Births to parents with a migrant background had an increased risk of several, but not all, negative outcomes,” the authors write in the study.

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While the risk of a small for gestational age (SGA) birth was higher in the immigrant population, the risk of a large for gestational age (LGA) birth was lower compared to Canadian-born parents, the study found.

In an SGA birth, the baby is born with a birth weight under 10Th percentile among an infant population of the same sex and gestational age. A birth weight over 90 is considered an LGA birthTh percentile.

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Infant death rates within the baby’s first year of life were also lower for immigrants than for native Canadian parents.

The risk of stillbirths and premature births was lowest among economic-class immigrants and highest among refugees, consistent with other previous studies, the authors said.

This is likely because “economic-class immigrants use more primary care services than refugees and family-class immigrants, and refugees are less likely to have a regular doctor than non-refugees,” they found.

Yang said given the observed disparities in outcomes within the immigrant population, admission category could be a “meaningful feature” that can help provide more individualized care to different groups.

“We just want to emphasize that immigrants are not a single group as is commonly believed, so subpopulations are important,” Yang said.

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As for the increased risk of preterm birth among immigrants compared to parents born in Canada, systemic racism may be a factor, the authors said.

Smoking, being underweight and intrauterine infections are other risk factors for early preterm birth, they said.

Another recent CMAJ study found that maternal obesity is associated with an increased chance of stillbirth.


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Overall, babies in Canada are getting smaller, data shows.

A January 2022 study by Statistics Canada found that the mean birth weight of all births fell from 3,442 grams in 2000 to 3,367 grams in 2016, while SGA births increased from 7.2 percent in 2000 to 8.0 percent in 2016.

This trend can be partly explained by important risk factors such as an increase in maternal and paternal immigration, delayed births, an increase in first-time mothers or an increase in unmarried women, StatCan said.

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Immigration accounts for almost a quarter (23 percent) of Canada’s population. according to 2021 census data.

In 2023, most of Canada’s 3.2 percent population growth – the highest since 1957 – came from temporary immigration. Statistics Canada said in a report last week.

&Copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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