Immigrant women who live in regions of Spain with high unemployment rates are three times more likely to have stillborn infants than Spanish-born women living in more thriving areas of the country, according to a study by an international team of scientists led by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Many poor women with low levels of education who have migrated in recent years to Spain from Sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries were particularly affected, the researchers reported.

The study was published in the October 2013 issue of the European Journal of Epidemiology. The study is believed to be the first to show the effect of unemployment on stillbirth at a national level.

Poor access to prenatal and other medical care for undocumented immigrants in Spain contributes to the number of stillbirths. “Currently, the Spanish government has banned access to preventive care for undocumented immigrants,” said lead author Miguel Angel Luque Fernandez, researcher in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH. “But it is more expensive for a health care system to deal with stillbirths than healthy newborn infants in terms of socioeconomic and human costs. Instead of banning prenatal care for undocumented migrant women, governments should reinforce access to preventive health care for immigrant pregnant women and provide them support.”

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