The Association between Mental Health Disorders and History of Unintended Pregnancy among Women Veterans by Colleen Judge-Golden


Women Veterans have high rates of mental health disorders and other psychosocial factors which may render this population particularly vulnerable to negative health outcomes associated with unintended pregnancy.


The objective of our study was to assess the relationship between self-reported mental illness and history of unintended pregnancy among women Veterans.


Data are from a nationally representative, cross-sectional telephone survey of women Veterans, ages 18-45, who used VA for primary care within 12 months prior to interview (survey completion rate 83%).


Predictors were self-report of any and number of mental health disorders (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia). Outcomes were any and number of unintended pregnancies. Multivariable logistic and negative binomial regression were used to assess relationships between mental illness and unintended pregnancy. To assess women's current risk of unintended pregnancy, we examined associations between any mental health disorder and contraceptive use at last sex among heterosexually active women not desiring pregnancy.


Among 2297 women Veterans, 1580 (68.8%) reported a history of at least one mental health disorder, with 20.1, 21.6, and 27.0% reporting one, two, or three or more conditions, respectively. Any history of unintended pregnancy was reported by 1315 women (57.3%); 28.3% reported one, 15.6% reported two, and 13.4% reported three or more. Compared to women with no mental illness, women with any mental health disorder were more likely to report any unintended pregnancy (60.3 vs. 50.5%; adjusted OR 1.40; 95% CI 1.15, 1.71) and to have experienced greater numbers of unintended pregnancies (adjusted incidence rate ratio 1.29; 95% CI 1.15, 1.44). Increasing numbers of mental health disorders were associated with greater numbers of unintended pregnancies. Contraceptive use and method efficacy at last sex did not differ by mental health status.


Women Veterans with mental health disorders are more likely to have experienced any and greater numbers of unintended pregnancies than Veterans without mental health disorders.

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