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Being a woman, being a soldier, being a mother: a qualitative analysis of perceptions of pregnancy on working lives of women in the Spanish Armed Forces
  1. Sheima Hossain-López and
  2. D Ruiz-Berdún
  1. Surgery, Medical and Social Sciences, Facultad de Medicina y Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, Alcala de Henares, Madrid, Spain
  1. Correspondence to Capt Sheima Hossain-López, Surgery, Medical and Social Sciences, Universidad de Alcalá de Henares Facultad de Medicina y Ciencias de la Salud, Alcala de Henares 28805, Spain; sheimahossain{at}


Introduction Thirty-two years after Spain first allowed women to join the armed forces, 12% of active troops are women, although there are no data on how many of them are mothers. There is a lack of research related to the impact of motherhood on their careers and the challenges they face as well. Previous quantitative research, within North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, has focused on the increased vulnerability and reduced performance of women returning to service after childbirth. However, no study to date has examined the narratives of these women.

Methods A qualitative, cross-sectional study was carried out by means of individual interviews which were subsequently analysed employing the interpretative approach of hermeneutic phenomenology. All the interviews were conducted by videoconference, being recorded for subsequent transcription and analysis with MAXQDA v.2018.

Results Servicewoman reported experiencing fear of informing their command chain of their pregnancy. Many women described feelings of constantly having to prove their worth, and thus perceived the physical restrictions associated with pregnancy and/or postpartum as a threat to their previous achievements. This sometimes led to behaviours that posed a risk to the health of mothers and babies, or eventually resulted in both acute and chronic conditions.

Conclusions Some restrictions put in place to protect them during their pregnancies become a source of additional anxiety. Returning to active service, we found that women’s desire to fulfil their duties can cause long-term damage to their physical and psychological health. The attitudes servicewomen perceive towards pregnant women and mothers seems to exert a strong influence on the risks they are willing to assume. Understanding and addressing the needs of servicewomen after childbirth, either now, as active members of the Armed Forces, or in the foreseeable future, as veterans, is crucial to both military and civilian healthcare providers.

  • organisational development
  • risk management
  • maternal medicine
  • qualitative research

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  • Contributors Conception or design of the work, data analysis and interpretation, final approval of the version to be published and responsibility for the overall content as guarantors: SH-L and DR-B. Data collection and drafting of the article: SH-L. Critical revision of the article: DR-B.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The relevant ethical considerations were observed in relation to the recordings and transcripts, and the study was approved by the corresponding Ethics Committee of University of Alcalá before interviews commenced.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data are protected by Data Protection Law Enforcement Directive and other rules concerning the protection of personal data. For further information or request, contact

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