Latina mothers in the United States enjoy surprisingly favorable birth outcomes despite their social disadvantages. This "Latina paradox" is particularly evident among Mexican-born women. The social and cultural factors that contribute to this paradox are maintained by community networks—informal systems of prenatal care that are composed of family, friends, community members and lay health workers. This informal system confers protective factors that provide a behavioral context for healthy births. U.S.-born Latinas are losing this protection, although it could be maintained with the support of community-based informal care systems.
In this article, the authors recommend steps to harness the benefits of informal systems of prenatal care in Latino communities to meet the increasing needs of pregnant Latina women.