Undocumented Pregnancy: Why Women Are Afraid to Get Prenatal Care

Edinburg, Texas — Brittany first learned that there was something wrong with her pregnancy when she started bleeding and rushed to the emergency room late one night in July 2019.

A doctor on duty said she had an infection that could cause a miscarriage. Brittany knew she wouldn’t keep her word and agreed to find an obstetrician to treat the problem.

As an undocumented immigrant, Brittany, now 20 years old, did not have health insurance and could not afford to pay for treatment in cash. Her only option was to apply for public benefits, but a friend told me that doing so could target her to be deported or endanger a pending green card application. I did. So she sat firmly, hoping that the infection would disappear naturally.

A few weeks later, Brittany woke her husband in the middle of the night and told her to take her mother to the next room. They came back and found Brittany doubled in pain and her face wet with tears.

“I have a lot of blood,” Brittany said.

When President Trump unleashed a crackdown on immigrants, non-legal people scrambled to erase traces of their existence so they would not be swept away. They stayed home and hid themselves from aggressive new street arrests. And thousands have dropped out of welfare programs, avoiding policies that pose an invisible threat. Under the growing restrictions on “public responsibility,” the government said it would refrain from legalizing undocumented migrants using certain public interests.

Although undocumented immigrants have been shown to be ineligible for most welfare programs and use what is available at a lower rate than American citizens, the Trump administration has shown that those who are not financially independent are in the United States. He said expansion was needed to discourage migration to. Kenneth T. Kutchinelli II, Deputy Director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, said at the time, “Give me tired and poor people who can stand on their feet and are not publicly responsible.”

This policy included an exemption for some vulnerable groups, including pregnant women. However, doctors and public health officials are convinced that many undocumented women are less likely to be legalized, and immigration officers commonly found in border hospitals are targeted for deportation. He said he was worried that he might be.

As a result, the climate of horror has worsened, with disastrous consequences for the health of pregnant women and their babies, they say.

Within days of the public billing policy being announced, wall coverage in the Spanish press and disastrous warnings on social media continued, and clinics saw a sharp no-show rate for prenatal care appointments. It has risen. Midwives say there has been a surge in childbirth demands from undocumented women who wanted to avoid going to the hospital. According to doctors, the number of women arriving in the emergency room with serious complications or already suffering from labor has skyrocketed without ever receiving a single prenatal appointment.

This problem is especially noticeable in Texas, which has the second largest population of illegal immigrants in the country.

“Will the health of migrant women fall off the cliff soon?” Dr. Tony Ogburn, an obstetrician at DHR Health, a busy hospital near the Mexican border in Edinburg, Texas, says 8,000 to 9,000 people each year. He said the baby was giving birth. “I think we are already there.”

Even before Mr. Trump took office, studies from past cases have shown that undocumented women are more likely to skip prenatal care and experience complications during labor. Although recent immigrants from Latin America are often healthier than American-born women, babies born to undocumented women are born underweight than others and are the most common infant mortality. It is more likely that you have a premature birth, which is the main cause.

Inequality uses government assistance due to the stress of living on the edge of society and fears that undocumented immigrants are eligible for less public benefits than American citizens and may face impact. It was related to the fact that he was often wary of doing things.

Dr. Ogden said many of his clients in Texas couldn’t afford to pay in cash and perform such a procedure, so they skipped expensive ultrasound, which is important to identify potential problems. ..

President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr., said he would revoke the change in civil servant designation in the first 100 days of his inauguration, but experts said some of the fears planted could be prolonged. ing.

Like the other women in this article, Brittany demanded that her surname not be disclosed due to her immigration status, and when she landed in the second emergency room, doctors told her another infection. Said to have developed. severe.

She was allowed to stay overnight. The next morning, a social worker asked his family how to pay for treatment. “They put you between the rock and the difficult place,” later said Maria, Brittany’s mother-in-law, also undocumented. “It’s your baby or your immigrant status.”

Her only option was to apply for a limited edition public benefit available to undocumented pregnant women in Texas. This allowed Brittany to undergo the first ultrasound of her pregnancy until late in pregnancy. However, the grainy black-and-white image of the growing daughter was barely mitigated. “I was scared because I didn’t know if we did the right thing,” she said.

The South Texas colony where she lives, along with about 500,000 people in fragile homes and rusty trailers, must work hardest to convince healthcare professionals to seek care from women. It is a place that did not become.

Pregnancy has never been easier for the people who live there. Jennifer and her husband, Diego, both came to the United States as young children, but recently lost their quasi-legal status under the Childhood Arrival Postponement Program because they couldn’t afford to renew. Then last January, Jennifer bought a test from a dollar store and found her pregnant.

The couple decided to move to Indiana temporarily. There they found a job in a factory that paid $ 13 an hour. This is twice as much as the undocumented workers who normally earn in South Texas. She went for eight months without prenatal care. “I was worried,” she said, but she felt she had resigned.

An obstetrician at the University of Texas-Pan-American brought a mobile clinic to the colony in the hope that pregnant women would be more likely to attend appointments near their homes. Clinics rely on “promotras” (healthcare professionals with strong community ties) to guide patients to receive free or significantly discounted treatment.

Born in Mexico and an undocumented promotra for some time, Maria Aguilar spends her days delivering food and medicine to people who are too afraid to go out. She brings a mask to women who work in the fields during pregnancy to protect them from exposure to pesticides. But she said she often ignored her phone because she was afraid to seek treatment. By the time they reach out to her at stake, some have already miscarried.

Asked how often such fears occur when working with patients, Aguilar said, “Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone without this problem.”

A similar chilling effect was seen after welfare reforms under President Bill Clinton restricted access to migrant benefits. In Texas, maternal mortality and morbidity have increased following the law, said King Hillier, vice president of the Harris County Hospital District, including Houston.

He said a more extreme version of the phenomenon is happening now, as social media warned undocumented women to stay away from public assistance programs of any kind.

“What we were dealing with in the late 90’s was basically word-of-mouth, and now you have 24/7 mass media,” he said.

Even in the liberal outposts of the state capital, Austin, practitioners have made what they can comfortably say to ease patients’ concerns about the aggressive new tactics used to track migrants for arrest. Say there is a limit.

“No one can accidentally reassure them because anything is possible these days,” said Margaret Kini, an obstetrician and gynecologist at one of the city’s largest low-income clinics.

Griselda, an undocumented woman who has lived in Austin for over 20 years, said Mr. Trump’s elections in 2016 had an immediate impact on her community. Shortly thereafter, the father of one of her child’s classmates was deported, astonishing her and her other parents. A few months later, a police officer pulled her to write a ticket and warned her son. “He said,’If I want, she’s illegal, so I can take your mom.'”

All of that cast a shadow over the January 2019 discovery that she was pregnant with her fourth child. Griselda found a midwife who gave birth to her daughter, Ava Valentina, instead of going to the hospital as she did to give birth to her first three children. She wants to be legalized someday, so she continues to avoid using government services, including services that her baby is qualified as a U.S. citizen, for fear of potentially impacting the future. I will.

“I don’t want to be a public offense,” she said, holding a week-old girl and worried about the cost of a two-month health checkup that would come when her baby needed to be vaccinated. “If you can afford it, you will pay for it yourself.”

Paola Rojas, who gave birth to Griselda’s baby, said the complications often overturned her best plans to avoid the client’s hospital.

Melissa, a Christian missionary from Mexico, and her husband lived outside Austin for about a year when she discovered she was pregnant. Melissa planned to give birth to her baby at a maternity center, an authorized facility that accepts cash payments from low-income women.

However, Rojas, who helped her by providing naturopathic prenatal care, was worried that Melissa couldn’t achieve that in nine months without the need for medical intervention. She saw it happen in other undocumented patients who developed stress-related illnesses that could lead to preterm birth and other problems. Melissa was always fretting and had a hard time sleeping at night, she said.

Approximately seven months after pregnancy, Melissa was taken to the hospital with preeclampsia, a life-threatening and dangerous condition for both mother and baby. Her son, Josias, gave birth by emergency caesarean section and weighed only 4 pounds. The nurse took him directly to the incubator.

The next night, in the darkness of her room, Melissa asked about paying her bill in cash. One nurse explained that Josias would have to live in the hospital for at least a month and it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep him alive.

After avoiding it for months, she will have to apply for public benefits.

When the nurse turned off the lights in the room, Melissa closed her eyes to think about the future, but couldn’t sleep all night.

Lindsey Adario Contributed to a report from McAllen, Texas.

Undocumented Pregnancy: Why Women Are Afraid to Get Prenatal Care

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