A new study has found that women who immigrate to the UK pick up worse health behaviours the longer they live in the country.
The study discovered that longer the ethnic minority women live in the UK the more likely they are to smoke during pregnancy or give up breastfeeding early.
The researchers from UCL Institute of Child Health in London conducted their study over 8588 mothers with singleton children from the millennium cohort study. Out of them, 6478 were British/Irish white mothers and 2110 mothers from ethnic minority groups.
The women were asked about their maternal health behaviours, generational status and length of residency in the UK. The researchers later compared their health behaviours during pregnancy including smoking and alcohol consumption and after birth, including initiation and duration of breast-feeding, reports British Medical Journal.
The findings revealed that mothers from ethnic minority groups were less likely to smoke (15pct) than British/Irish white mothers (37pct) or consume alcohol (14pct v 37pct) during pregnancy, and were more likely to start breast-feeding (86pct v 69pct) and breast feed for at least four months (40pct v 27pct).
However, first and second generation mothers from ethnic minority groups were more likely to smoke during pregnancy, but were less likely to start breast feeding, and less likely to continue breast feeding than immigrants.
Moreover, for every additional five years spent in the UK, immigrant mothers were 32pct more likely to smoke during pregnancy and 5pct less likely to breast feed for at least four months.
This research "is an important first step in developing programmes and policies that promote the health of immigrant women and their children", they authors conclude.
The study appears online on British Medical Journal.