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Military spouses with deployed partners are at greater risk of poor perinatal mental health: a scoping review

Abstract

Background Poor mental health in the perinatal period is associated with a number of adverse outcomes for the individual and the wider family. The unique circumstances in which military spouses/partners live may leave them particularly vulnerable to developing perinatal mental health (PMH) problems.

Methods A scoping review was carried out to review the literature pertaining to PMH in military spouses/partners using the methodology outlined by Arksey and O’Malley (2005). Databases searched included EBSCO, Gale Cengage Academic OneFile, ProQuest and SAGE.

Results Thirteen papers fulfilled the inclusion criteria, all from the USA, which looked a PMH or well-being in military spouses. There was a strong focus on spousal deployment as a risk factor for depressive symptoms and psychological stress during the perinatal period. Other risk factors included a lack of social/emotional support and increased family-related stressors. Interventions for pregnant military spouses included those that help them develop internal coping strategies and external social support.

Conclusions US literature suggests that military spouses are particularly at risk of PMH problems during deployment of their serving partner and highlights the protective nature of social support during this time. Further consideration needs to be made to apply the findings to UK military spouses/partners due to differences in the structure and nature of the UK and US military and healthcare models. Further UK research is needed, which would provide military and healthcare providers with an understanding of the needs of this population allowing effective planning and strategies to be commissioned and implemented.

  • military
  • armed forces
  • perinatal
  • mental health
  • spouses
  • partners
  • midwifery
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