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Veterans' Perinatal Care and Mental Health Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Examination of the Role of Prior Trauma and Pandemic-Related Stressors.

Mattocks KM, Kroll-Desrosiers A, Marteeny V, Walker L, Vogt D, Iversen KM, Bastian L. Veterans' Perinatal Care and Mental Health Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Examination of the Role of Prior Trauma and Pandemic-Related Stressors. Journal of women's health (2002). 2022 Oct 1; 31(10):1507-1517.

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Many pregnant and postpartum Veterans have experienced multiple lifetime traumas, including military sexual trauma, intimate partner violence, and combat trauma. These women may be particularly vulnerable to increased post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems following additional trauma exposures or stressful events, such as Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This study sought to examine the impact of prior trauma exposures on the lived experience of pregnant and postpartum Veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pregnant Veterans at 15 VA medical centers were surveyed at 20 weeks of pregnancy and 3 months postpartum asked about their COVID-19-related perinatal and mental health experiences, as well as the stressors that impacted them as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, 111 women Veterans completed both the pregnancy and postpartum surveys that included COVID-19 items. Sixty percent of our sample had experienced at least one potentially traumatic lifetime event, with 22% of our sample experiencing two or more of the included exposures. Women with a trauma history had 3.5 times increased odds of reporting their mental health as "much worse" compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.06-11.75) and were more likely to report that COVID-19 negatively affected their mental or emotional health "a lot" compared with women without a trauma history (odds ratio: 8.5; 95% CI: 1.93-37.48). COVID-19 has had a significant impact on pregnant and postpartum Veterans' mental health. Obstetricians should consider strategies to ensure women have access to mental health care during pregnancy, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Hospitals should also consider the importance of labor support companions during the COVID-19 pandemic and examine adjusting policies to allow for at least one labor support companion during labor and delivery.

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