Are Female Service Personnel prepared for the Demands of Full Active Duty in the First Year Postpartum?

Research Paper Title

Female UK Army Service Personnel Are at Greater Risk of Work-Related Morbidity on Return to Duty Postpartum.

Background

The 2016 Interim Report on the Health Risks to Women in Ground Close Combat Roles highlighted an increased risk of skeletal injury and significant physiological changes, including increased ligament laxity and decreased bone mineral content, during the postpartum period.

The report called for further research and a re-evaluation of postpartum policy to optimise the return of female Service personnel to arduous employment.

The purpose of this study was to determine whether returning to duty is at greater risk of injury and illness in the first year postpartum than they were prepregnancy.

Methods

Fifty-five female UK Army Service personnel aged 18-41 years, who had given birth in the previous 4 years, completed a lifestyle questionnaire and gave written consent for a review of their medical records.

The number of working days lost (WDL) due to illness, injury and combined illness and injury was obtained from medical records, for 1 year prepregnancy and 1 year postpartum.

Female Service personnel returned to duty at different time-points postpartum, so data were expressed as WDL/week.

Results

WDL/week due to illness and combined illness and injury were higher postpartum compared with prepregnancy (p<0.05).

WDL/week due to combined illness and injury was significantly lower prepregnancy (p<0.05) and at 0-26 weeks postpartum (p<0.05), compared with 26-52 weeks postpartum.

Conclusions

Postpartum female UK Army Service personnel are at greater risk of illness and a combination of illness and injury in the year after giving birth, compared with prepregnancy.

The study suggests female Service personnel are unprepared for the demands of full active duty in the first year postpartum.

Reference

Cordell, R.F., Wickes, C.K., Casey, A. & Greeves, J.P. (2020) Female UK Army Service Personnel Are at Greater Risk of Work-Related Morbidity on Return to Duty Postpartum. BMJ Military Health. doi: 10.1136/jramc-2019-001282. Online ahead of print.

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