Perinatal health among foreign versus native-born mothers in Canada: variations across outcomes and cohorts

J Public Health (Oxf). 2020 Feb 28;42(1):e26-e33. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdz006.


Background: To examine perinatal health differences between foreign-born and native-born mothers in Canada across multiple outcomes and two cohorts 10 years apart.

Methods: Using 94 896 and 131 271 births in the 1996 and 2006 Canadian Census-Birth Cohort, respectively, we estimated risk ratios and risk differences of preterm birth (PTB), small-for-gestational age (SGA), large-for-gestational age (LGA), stillbirth and infant mortality between foreign-born and Canadian-born mothers.

Results: In the 1996 cohort, we observed no important differences in adverse outcomes between foreign-born and native-born mothers. In the 2006 cohort, however, foreign-born mothers had lower risks of PTB, LGA, stillbirth, and infant mortality and a higher risk of SGA on both the relative and absolute scales. Lowered risk of PTB among foreign-born mothers in the 2006 cohort was also observed within Caucasian, East Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian mothers. Favourable outcomes associated with foreign-born status in the 2006 cohort were negatively graded by duration of residence in Canada among immigrant mothers.

Conclusions: Differences in perinatal health by maternal foreign-born status varied across cohorts and a more pronounced 'healthy migrant' effect was observed among more recent migrants. The native-born mothers' perinatal health over time and a more restrictive/selective immigration policy in recent years would explain our results.

Keywords: epidemiology; migration; pregnancy and childbirth disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age
  • Mothers*
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth* / epidemiology

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