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A new report on military women and postpartum depression has found higher risk of mental illness later in life and higher suicide risks. The report is based on a study done by military researchers for the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.
Postpartum depression is prevalent in active-duty service women and the military wants to know why and what effects it's having on them down the line. Military researchers reviewed the medical records of all active-duty women giving birth between 1998 and 2013, about 4 percent of which had a postpartum depression diagnosis after delivery.
Looking through records for months, even years after the servicewomen gave birth found that the likelihood remained relatively high in comparison to those who did not have postpartum depression diagnoses. These women were also at higher risk of leaving military service earlier and ranked higher on suicide self-reports for suicidal thoughts.
The authors believe that early screening, support, and treatment during and after pregnancy to mitigate postpartum depression risks would result in higher preservation of troop readiness.
"Early screening support and treatment are essential during this vulnerable postpartum time frame to preserve the female fighting force," wrote Dr. Kasi Chu and epidemiologists at the center.
The study's authors also believe that the link between postpartum depression and higher risk of mental illness later in life are not confined to military personnel. The highest rates of postpartum depression in the military women studied were in non-combat roles such as healthcare and specialties outside of combat or close combat support. They believe the rise in postpartum depression cases is more closely linked with better understanding and increased awareness of the disorder. Not because there are necessarily more instances of it.
This coincides with general population studies, which are few and far between, which have found postpartum depression on the rise in the recent years. Likely for the same reasons.
The researchers acknowledge some limitations to their study, but believe it is a beginning step towards more understanding of postpartum depression's affects on women later in life. Another study, recently published, found links between postpartum depression and the child's later mental health outcomes (read that here).
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