Research on the health status of international migrants to industrialised countries in general, and on perinatal outcomes in particular, has assumed an interpretative model based on primary migration, characterised by one permanent cross-border movement from the migrant's country of birth. However, many migrants experience more complex migration patterns that may also be associated with human health. Secondary migration, defined as a migration from a country of residence other than the country where the immigrant was born, has been growing during the last two decades, favoured by globalisation. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between secondary migration and preterm birth (PTB) and infant birthweight at term (BW) using a Canadian official immigration database to build a cohort of immigrants to Ontario, Canada, who obtained their permanent residence in the years 1985-2000. The study population comprised 320,398 singleton live infants born to immigrant women during 1988-2007. Primary and secondary migrants were categorised according to whether they were born in an industrialised country or not. Secondary migrants were further subdivided according to whether the country from which they migrated to Canada was industrialised or not. We found that compared to primary migrants, secondary migrants to Canada born in non-industrialised countries had lower odds of PTB and higher mean BW at term. However, such a protective effect was not observed among secondary migrants born in industrialised countries. In a cross-classified multilevel model restricted to secondary migrants, 5.2% of the variation in birthweight was explained by migrants' countries of birth and 0.8% by migrants' countries of last permanent residence. These findings are consistent with the so-called healthy migrant effect, implying that selective migration from non-industrialised countries is associated with protective individual characteristics.
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