FRIDAY, Feb. 15, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Women in the military who face combat situations shortly after they give birth are at greater risk for depression, according to a new study.
Researchers from San Diego State University and Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton in California, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., examined information on 1,660 women who gave birth while on active duty in the U.S. military.
The study, led by Stacie Nguyen, found the women who were deployed and faced combat situations after giving birth were at increased risk for depression, compared to those who gave birth and were not deployed.
The researchers noted, however, that these women did not have a significantly greater risk for depression than other women exposed to combat who had not just given birth. As a result, the researchers concluded that the women's increased risk for depression was related to combat exposure -- not childbirth.
"With increasing numbers of women in the military and being exposed to combat experiences, it is critical for us to better understand maternal depression among our female service members," Dr. Susan Kornstein, president of the Academy of Women's Health and executive director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women's Health in Richmond, said in a news release from the Journal of Women's Health, which published the study.
About 16,000 women on active duty in the U.S. military give birth each year. Most of these women return to service six weeks after delivery and can be deployed overseas when their baby is 4 months old.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on postpartum depression.