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Study Finds Certain Birth Defects are more Common in Hispanics

Update Date: Jun 20, 2014 04:30 PM EDT

Birth defects can occur due to genetic and environmental reasons. In a new study, researchers examined the incidence rate of certain birth defects. The team found that Hispanic women, in particular, had a higher rate of giving birth to infants with neural tube defects.

"One of the things that caught our eye was, while Hispanics represent 17 percent of the population, 24 percent of premature babies are Hispanic," said Dr. Edward McCabe, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization.

In this report, the researchers analyzed pregnancy trends in women of different races. They found that Hispanic women had higher rates of brain and spinal birth defects, and premature births. Hispanic women had a preterm birth rate that was 12 percent higher than white women. They were also three times more likely than white women to be pregnant before the age of 17. On top of that, Hispanic women were less likely to finish high school and less likely to have insurance. The combination of these factors could explain why Hispanic women give birth prematurely at before week 37.

When the researchers examined potential causes of neural tube defects, which are defects related to the spinal cord or brain, they reasoned that diet could be playing a huge factor. The team stated that Hispanics tend to eat a lot of corn masa flour. The flour is often not enriched with essential vitamins and minerals, such as folic acid. The researchers found that Hispanic women were also less likely to state that they took multivitamins during pregnancy, which could also affect their baby's risk of birth defects.

"This is why the March of Dimes is striving to have masa cornmeal fortified with folate," said Dr. Diana Ramos, an associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles according to WebMD. "Corn masa flour is not part of the standard American diet, so, since 2012, we've been working on this, making progress slowly."

The report can be found here.

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