Introduction The rights, roles and responsibilities of servicewomen in the UK Armed Forces has changed dramatically over time. Previously, service personnel were automatically discharged from the military if they became pregnant. As the percentage of servicewomen in the UK Armed Forces increases, having children during service is becoming more common and maternity policies are now in place. Having children during military service can impact on the health and well-being of servicewomen, including a greater risk of illness when returning to work.
Methods A cross-sectional, self-report survey was used for data collection. The response rate was approximately 45%. Female Army veterans were recruited via a female military association. The survey collected data on parental status, the timing of their first child (during or after service), and several current mental and physical health and well-being outcomes.
Results Of the 750 female Army veterans who completed the survey, 406 reported having children. Of those with children, 14.5% had their first child during service compared with 85.5% after service. The most frequently endorsed health outcomes were low social support, loneliness and common mental health difficulties. Participants who had their first child during military service were more likely to have left the service non-voluntarily.
Conclusions This study provided insight into the impacts of having a first child during military service on servicewomen. Overall, female Army veterans who had their first child during service had poorer outcomes, including leaving service non-voluntarily. However, none of the health or well-being outcomes remained significant after adjusting the results. This study explored a widely under researched population and field of research. Future research should seek to expand on our findings and continue to explore the impacts of having a first child during military service for military mothers.
- mental health
- occupational & industrial medicine
Data availability statement
All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information. Not applicable.
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Contributors All authors contributed to designing the study and survey. CW led participant recruitment and data collection. DM performed statistical analyses. CW wrote the first draft, and all other authors contributed to each revision and approved the final manuscript.
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.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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