A study from the Womack Army Medical Center shows a connection between deployments and premature delivery as well as postpartum depression.
Captain Christopher Tarney is an obstetrician and lead author of the report published in the Internet Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. His team studied about 400 women who, throughout their pregnancies, had husbands deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tarney's team found these women were more than twice as likely to deliver before 37 weeks. They were also more than twice as likely to experience postpartum depression.
Tarney says his team suspects stress is the culprit.
"Not knowing whether or not the spouse is alive, as well as not having the spouse there during the entire pregnancy, may be attributable to those outcomes," Tarney said.
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- low birthweight
"Stress during pregnancy may have an effect on pre-term delivery. So that, potentially, can help both in our population—specifically a military population—but also, overall in the United States, just on an obstetric level, to see what precipitates potentially a pre-term delivery and how we can reduce that," Tarney said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control ranked premature birth among the country's top causes of infant mortality.
Tarney says he hopes his study will be replicated and expanded across the military.