Background: 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.
Methods: 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.
Results: 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.
Conclusions: 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.