Pregnant vets at higher risk for disorders?

LOS ANGELES — Female veterans who become pregnant may be more at risk for mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, a study finds.

Researchers looked at data on 43,078 women who were veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq and were treated at the Veterans Health Administration for five years. Among the study participants, 32 percent of women who were pregnant had a mental health diagnosis, while 21 percent of women who were not pregnant received a mental health diagnosis.

When all female vets taking part in VHA health care were compared with pregnant vets, pregnant vets were more apt to be diagnosed with major or mild depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and alcohol or drug abuse or dependence during the study.

Pregnant vets had twice the rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety as their non-pregnant peers.

The study authors offered some explanations for the discrepancy: female vets with mental health disorders might be more inclined to ask for treatment at the VHA than women without those disorders, and could have had their pregnancy noted while being cared for. Women who use VHA health care but don't need mental health help may have gotten prenatal care elsewhere and not reported their pregnancies to the VHA. Also, other studies have shown that veterans may be more likely to exhibit risky behavior after coming home from war. And women who have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental disorders may be more likely to get pregnant.

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