A new study by a researcher at RTI International has said that Mexican immigrants are less likely than Mexican-American women to use contraception before they have had a baby.
The study, published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal
online, found that among woman who had not yet had children, Mexican-American women are three to four times more likely than Mexican immigrants to use contraceptives.
Data from a national survey in Mexico indicate that the patterns of contraceptive use among Mexican immigrants in the U.S. is similar to that of women who remain in Mexico: Although 69 percent of sexually active women in Mexico use a contraceptive method, only 24 percent of childless women do.
The researchers found that the age at which women immigrated was associated with significant differences in their socio-demographic characteristic. Similar to Mexican-American women, women who migrated before age 13 had higher levels of education, income, health insurance coverage, and labor force participation than women who migrated as adults. They also were less likely to be married or to identify themselves as Catholic and very religious than women who migrated as adults.
However, in spite of these differences, patterns of contraceptive use were similar between women who migrated as children and those who migrated as adults.
"Although women who moved to the United States as children adopted many U.S. customs, their patterns of contraceptive use more closely resemble first-generation Mexican immigrants," said Ellen Wilson, Ph.D., a research health analyst at RTI and the study's author. "This finding reinforces the point that a change in contraceptive use across generations has little to do with changes in social variables; rather it seems to reflect underlying cultural factors."
The author suggests that some Mexican immigrant women who have not yet had children may be less likely to use contraceptives simply because they want to start having children as soon as possible, others may be reluctant to use contraception before they have had children because of concerns that contraceptives may cause infertility.
The study used data from the National Survey of Family Growth and looked at patterns of contraceptive use among more than 1,800 women in 1995 and 2002 who immigrated to the United States from Mexico or were born in the United States but were of Mexican origin.