Language gaps linked to treatment discrimination against pregnant Latinas

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Thursday, May 4, 2023 - 7:41pm
Updated: Friday, May 5, 2023 - 9:09am
Audio icon Download mp3 (1.21 MB)

Around one-fifth of female Arizonans speak a language other than English at home; a portion of them are pregnant Latinas who have only limited English proficiency.

Research in the journal in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth shows such a language barrier could lower the quality of their maternal care.

Latina women make up a large and growing percent of people in the U.S. with limited English proficiency. They also have the second highest fertility rate in the country.

Unfortunately, language barriers can worsen healthcare within that population, which already faces higher risks of in-hospital deaths and severe maternal health problems, or morbidities. Examples of severe maternal morbidities range from life-threatening conditions like eclampsia, severe hemorrhage or sepsis, to severe complications requiring a hysterectomy or admission to an intensive care unit.

Data from 1,200 Latina women recorded in the 2016 Listening to Mothers in California survey shows Spanish-speakers were more likely to report discrimination due to language. The same was true to a lesser degree among bilingual Spanish/English speakers.

Yet the authors found Spanish-speakers felt less pressure for medical procedures such as labor induction or cesarean delivery during labor. That’s somewhat surprising, given other research showing higher cesarean delivery rates at U.S.-Mexico border counties.

Also contrary to expectations, the authors found no significant links to mistreatment. Prior research involving data from similar national datasets have found that women of color are more likely to experience mistreatment due to their race and ethnicity.

More research is needed to evaluate and confirm the results.

Fronteras Science