OTHER SOCIAL ISSUES

A Cross-Sectional Survey of the Relationship between Partner Deployment and Stress in Pregnancy during Wartime

Article

Pregnancy is a time in a woman’s life that can be filled with many stressors. From body changes and hormonal influences to social factors, many of these stressors impact the pregnancy outcome. Higher stress levels have been shown to result in increases in preterm birth, neonatal deaths, and abnormal behaviors in children. This survey includes the largest cohort of pregnant women surveyed while their partners were deployed to war. The survey provides insight into how a wartime deployment may impact pregnant women in military families, a previously inadequately studied group.

Abstract

The objective of this study was to determine if having a partner deployed during wartime increases the stress levels in pregnant women and alters their attitudes toward pregnancy. We administered a cross-sectional survey of all military and civilian women attending the antenatal clinic at Naval Hospital Camp, Lejeune. We collected the anonymous surveys in May 2003. The survey measured demographics, self-reported stress level, and other attitudes toward the pregnancy and deployment; blood pressure was recorded for example. Data was compared with partner deployment status and reported stress levels using chi-square, t-tests, and logistic regression analysis. 279 surveys were returned, representing 93.3% of those distributed. An almost equal number of patients had a partner deployed as non-deployed (49.1% versus 50.9%). Women with deployed partners were older, more had children at home, more often reported both significantly higher stress levels and a severe impact of the deployment on their stress, had a lower systolic blood pressure, more often reported changed eating habits, and reported that media coverage of the war worsened their stress than those whose partners were not deployed. Logistic regression analysis of stress found that partner deployment, having more than one child at home, and being active-duty were associated with reporting higher stress levels (odds ratio [OR] 2.27, p.013; OR 3.11, p.042; and OR 4.03, p.01 respectively). Pregnant women with deployed partners and those with more than one child already at home report higher stress levels than their peers with partners present. Increased stress in pregnant women with deployed partners may lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes. Further study is warranted to assess the impact of deployment on pregnancy and family life, to better support homeland pregnant partners of deployed military members during wartime.

Full Reference

Haas, D., Pazdernik, L.A., and Olsen, C.H., 2005. "A Cross-Sectional Survey of the Relationship between Partner Deployment and Stress in Pregnancy during Wartime", Women's Health Issues, 15 (2), 48-54.