Pregnancy and Mental Health Among Women Veterans Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan

Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Journal of Women's Health (Impact Factor: 2.05). 11/2010; 19(12):2159-66. DOI: 10.1089/jwh.2009.1892
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) may experience significant stress during military service that can have lingering effects. Little is known about mental health problems or treatment among pregnant OEF/OIF women veterans. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of mental health problems among veterans who received pregnancy-related care in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) system.
Data from the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) deployment roster of military discharges from October 1, 2001, through April 30, 2008, were used to assemble an administrative cohort of female OEF/OIF veterans enrolled in care at the VHA (n = 43,078). Pregnancy and mental health conditions were quantified according to ICD-9-CM codes and specifications. Mental healthcare use and prenatal care were assessed by analyzing VHA stop codes.
During the study period, 2966 (7%) women received at least one episode of pregnancy-related care, and 32% of veterans with a pregnancy and 21% without a pregnancy received one or more mental health diagnoses (p < 0.0001). Veterans with a pregnancy were twice as likely to have a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia as those without a pregnancy.
Women OEF/OIF veterans commonly experience mental health problems after military service. The burden of mental health conditions is higher among women with an identified instance of pregnancy than among those without. Because women do not receive pregnancy care at the VHA, however, little is known about ongoing concomitant prenatal and mental healthcare or about pregnancy outcomes among these women veterans.

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Available from: Joseph Goulet, Sep 26, 2015
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    • "Finally, there have been no studies to date to examine the outcomes of infants born to women veterans. As indicated in previous studies (Chireau et al., 2006; Mattocks et al., 2010), many pregnant veterans suffer from concomitant mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder, which may serve to hamper their abilities to provide adequate care for their infants upon birth. Our findings must be interpreted carefully. "
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    ABSTRACT: An increasing number of young women veterans are returning from war and military service and are seeking reproductive health care from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Many of these women seek maternity benefits from the VHA, and yet little is known regarding the number of women veterans utilizing VHA maternity benefits nor the characteristics of pregnant veterans using these benefits. In May 2010, VHA maternity benefits were expanded to include 7 days of infant care, which may serve to entice more women to use VHA maternity benefits. Understanding the changing trends in women veterans seeking maternity benefits will help the VHA to improve the quality of reproductive care over time. The goal of this study was to examine the trends in delivery claims among women veterans receiving VHA maternity benefits over a 5-year period and the characteristics of pregnant veterans utilizing VHA benefits. We undertook a retrospective, national cohort study of pregnant veterans enrolled in VHA care with inpatient deliveries between fiscal years (FY) 2008 and 2012. We included pregnant veterans using VHA maternity benefits for delivery. Measures included annualized numbers and rates of inpatient deliveries and delivery-related costs, as well as cesarean section rates as a quality indicator. During the 5-year study period, there was a significant increase in the number of deliveries to women veterans using VHA maternity benefits. The overall delivery rate increased by 44% over the study period from 12.4 to 17.8 deliveries per 1,000 women veterans. A majority of women using VHA maternity benefits were age 30 or older and had a service-connected disability. From FY 2008 to 2012, the VHA paid more than $46 million in delivery claims to community providers for deliveries to women veterans ($4,993/veteran). Over a 5-year period, the volume of women veterans using VHA maternity benefits increased by 44%. Given this sizeable increase, the VHA must increase its capacity to care for pregnant veterans and ensure care coordination systems are in place to address the needs of pregnant veterans with service-connected disabilities.
    Women s Health Issues 01/2014; 24(1):e37-e42. DOI:10.1016/j.whi.2013.10.002 · 1.61 Impact Factor
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    • "Prior research has shown that many LB veterans experience discrimination, rejection and/or poor care following disclosure of their sexuality to healthcare providers,3 and may engage in strategies to avoid conversations regarding sexual identity. These experiences may be particularly harmful for LB veterans returning from military deployments with substantial physical and mental health problems,4–7 and possibly compounded by lingering effects of targeted sexual assault and harassment experienced during military service based on perceived sexual orientation.8 Recent research9 indicates that 15.1 % of female OEF/OIF veterans report experiencing sexual trauma during military service. "
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    ABSTRACT: Many lesbian and bisexual (LB) women veterans may have been targets of victimization in the military based on their gender and presumed sexual orientation, and yet little is known regarding the health or mental health of LB veterans, nor the degree to which they feel comfortable receiving care in the VA. The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of mental health and gender-specific conditions, VA healthcare satisfaction and trauma exposure among LB veterans receiving VA care compared with heterosexually-identified women veterans receiving. Prospective cohort study of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) women veterans at two large VA facilities. Three hundred and sixty five women veterans that completed a baseline survey. Thirty-five veterans (9.6 %) identified as gay or lesbian (4.7 %), or bisexual (4.9 %). Measures included sexual orientation, military sexual trauma, mental and gender-specific health diagnoses, and VA healthcare utilization and satisfaction. LB OEF/OIF veterans were significantly more likely to have experienced both military and childhood sexual trauma than heterosexual women (MST: 31 % vs. 13 %, p < .001; childhood sexual trauma: 60 % vs. 36 %, p = .01), to be hazardous drinkers (32 % vs. 16 %, p = .03) and rate their current mental health as worse than before deployment (35 % vs. 16 %, p < .001). Many LB veterans have experienced sexual victimization, both within the military and as children, and struggle with substance abuse and poor mental health. Health care providers working with female Veterans should be aware of high rates of military sexual trauma and childhood abuse and refer women to appropriate VA treatment and support groups for sequelae of these experiences. Future research should focus on expanding this study to include a larger and more diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender veterans receiving care at VA facilities across the country.
    Journal of General Internal Medicine 07/2013; 28 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):604-8. DOI:10.1007/s11606-013-2357-9 · 3.42 Impact Factor
    • "Pregnancy-related diagnostic codes17 were used to determine whether a female veteran was pregnant at each clinical encounter. All BMI measurements in the 6 months preceding and 12 months subsequent to any clinical encounter with a pregnancy-related code were excluded from the analysis. "
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    ABSTRACT: Obesity is a growing public health concern and is becoming an epidemic among veterans in the post-deployment period. To explore the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a large cohort of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and to evaluate trajectories of change in BMI over 3 years. Retrospective, longitudinal cohort analysis of veterans' health records A total of 496,722 veterans (59,790 female and 436,932 male veterans) whose height and weight were recorded at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system at least once after the end of their last deployment and whose first post-deployment outpatient encounter at the VA was at least 1 year prior to the end of the study period (December 31, 2011). BMI, mental health diagnoses. Seventy-five percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were either overweight or obese at baseline. Four trajectories were observed: "stable overweight" represented the largest class; followed by "stable obese;" "overweight/obese gaining;" and "obese losing." During the 3-year ascertainment period, those with PTSD and depression in particular were at the greatest risk of being either obese without weight loss or overweight or obese and continuing to gain weight. Adjustment for demographics and antipsychotic medication attenuated the relationship between BMI and certain mental health diagnoses. Although BMI trajectories were similar in men and women, some gender differences were observed. For example, the risk of being in the persistently obese class in men was highest for those with PTSD, whereas for women, the risk was highest among those with depression. The growing number of overweight or obese returning veterans is a concerning problem for clinicians who work with these patients. Successful intervention to reduce the prevalence of obesity will require integrated efforts from primary care and mental health to treat underlying mental health causes and assist with engagement in weight loss programs.
    Journal of General Internal Medicine 07/2013; 28 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):563-70. DOI:10.1007/s11606-013-2374-8 · 3.42 Impact Factor
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