This study describes how international migration, including refugee status, affects both child spacing and awareness of and interest in family planning. Guatemalan, Salvadoran, and Belizean women with children under six years of age (n = 133) were interviewed in a survey conducted in 1989 in three settlements in Belize, Central America that have a high proportion of refugees and economic immigrants. Migration was characterized by women's nationality, residency status, and length of time in Belize. Over half of the women were interested in family planning, and two-thirds of them had discussed family planning with their spouses. Among women interested in family planning, 62% could spontaneously mention a method of contraception; the pill and sterilization were each mentioned by a quarter of these women. The women had a median age of 28 years, averaged 4.5 live births, and wanted 1.5 additional children. There was no effect of migration on fertility, but when mother's age, parity, and available acreage were controlled for, refugees wanted twice as many additional children as permanent residents or those without legal residency (p < .003). The latter had shorter intervals from migration to next birth (p < .02). Referral to family health services when women immigrants and refugees register at entry is recommended, as are culturally and linguistically appropriate services available for all women.

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