The effect of material social support and religious commitment on prenatal health behaviors among Mexican-American women in North Central Texas
This study explores the Latina Paradox, a phenomenon that purports that newly immigrated Mexican women have little prenatal care, but have birth outcomes similar to their non-Hispanic White counterparts who have prenatal care. A convenience sampling technique recruited 138 Mexican or Mexican-American women from a hospital, local Women's, Infant's, and Children's Office, and two obstetrician's offices. They were at least 18 years of age and either pregnant at the time of the survey or been pregnant within the last 12 months. The participants filed out an anonymous survey which included demographic data, questions were taken from the Maternal Social Support Index and the Religious Commitment-10 Scale. Data was entered into an Excel database and then analyzed using PASW (version 18.0). T-tests, binary regression, and discriminate analyses were used to determine results. Higher levels of support were not indicative of healthy prenatal behaviors in mothers with children in the home, whereas, higher levels of support prompted women with no children in the home to practice healthier prenatal behaviors. Being born in Mexico, being Catholic, and having a high school education predicted the use of folic acid, scheduling a dental appointment during pregnancy and not using unhealthy substances. Being in the United States longer than 10 years, married, and between the ages of 18-24 were more predictive of maintaining a healthy diet and exercise during pregnancy Those women reporting higher levels of religious commitment were more likely to practice healthier prenatal behaviors than those with lower levels of religious commitment. Findings of this study emphasize the importance of obtaining a prenatal health assessment by the community health educator and healthcare providers. It is important to include a thorough cultural assessment at the same time in order to ensure a holistic approach to meeting the needs of the Mexican- American woman during the child-bearing years.