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Open Access Research article

Perinatal outcomes among immigrant mothers over two periods in a region of central Italy

Laura Cacciani1*, Simona Asole1, Arianna Polo1, Francesco Franco1, Renato Lucchini2, Mario De Curtis2, Domenico Di Lallo1 and Gabriella Guasticchi1

Author Affiliations

1 Laziosanità - Agency for Public Health of Lazio Region, Via di Santa Costanza, 53, 00198 - Rome, Italy

2 Department of Paediatrics, La Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:294  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-294

Published: 10 May 2011

Abstract

Background

The number of immigrants has increased in Italy in the last twenty years (7.2% of the Italian population), as have infants of foreign-born parents, but scanty evidence on perinatal outcomes is available. The aim of this study was to investigate whether infants of foreign-born mothers living in Italy have different odds of adverse perinatal outcomes compared to those of native-born mothers, and if such measures changed over two periods.

Methods

The source of this area-based study was the regional hospital discharge database that records perinatal information on all births in the Lazio region. We analysed 296,739 singleton births born between 1996-1998 and 2006-2008. The exposure variable was the mother's region of birth. We considered five outcomes of perinatal health. We estimated crude and adjusted odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) to evaluate the association between mother's region of birth and perinatal outcomes.

Results

Perinatal outcomes were worse among infants of immigrant compared to Italian mothers, especially for sub-Saharan and west Africans, with the following crude ORs (in 1996-1998 and 2006-2008 respectively): 1.80 (95%CI:1.44-2.28) and 1.95 (95%CI:1.72-2.21) for very preterm births, and 1.32 (95%CI:1.16-1.50) and 1.32 (95%CI:1.25-1.39) for preterm births; 1.18 (95%CI:0.99-1.40) and 1.17 (95%CI:1.03-1.34) for a low Apgar score; 1.22 (95%CI:1.15-1.31) and 1.24 (95%CI:1.17-1.32) for the presence of respiratory diseases; 1.47 (95%CI:1.30-1.66) and 1.45 (95%CI:1.34-1.57) for the need for special or intensive neonatal care/in-hospital deaths; and 1.03 (95%CI:0.93-1.15) and 1.07 (95%CI:1.00-1.15) for congenital malformations. Overall, time did not affect the odds of outcomes differently between immigrant and Italian mothers and most outcomes improved over time among all infants. None of the risk factors considered confounded the associations.

Conclusion

Our findings suggest that migrant status is a risk factor for adverse perinatal health. Moreover, they suggest that perinatal outcomes improved over time in some immigrant women. This could be due to a general improvement in immigrants' health in the past decade, or it may indicate successful application of policies that increase accessibility to mother-child health services during the periconception and prenatal periods for legal and illegal immigrant women in Italy.