Postpartum Fatigue in the Active Duty Military Woman
Name: Jacqueline Rychnovsky
Rank: CDR, USN
Organization: University of San Diego
Performance Site: University of San Diego, Naval Medical Center San Diego, San Diego, CA
Year Published: 2003
Abstract Status: Final
Up to 16,000 military women annually experience the birth of a child. Barring complications, regulations require a return to work 42 days postpartum, making them susceptible to the effects of postpartum fatigue. The purpose of this descriptive, longitudinal study of 109 military women was to describe fatigue levels across the first 6-8 weeks postpartum; to describe the relationship among selected psychological, physiological, and situational variables of fatigue; and to examine the relationship between predictor variables, fatigue levels, and performance after childbirth. The majority of the sample were married or partnered enlisted women in the U.S. Navy with a mean age of 25 (+5) years. Descriptive statistics, repeated measures ANOVA, correlation, and regression were used to analyze the data. Women were found to be moderately fatigued across time and there was no change in fatigue levels from 2 to 6-8 weeks postpartum. Study variables of type of delivery, lactogenesis, depression, anxiety, maternal sleep, and infant temperament correlated with fatigue during hospitalization and at 2 weeks postpartum. Depression, anxiety, maternal sleep, and performance correlated with fatigue at 6-8 weeks postpartum. Regression analyses indicated that maternal anxiety during hospitalization and at 2 weeks postpartum explained 6% and 20% of the variance in fatigue at 6-8 weeks postpartum. Over half of the women had not regained full functional status when they returned to work and 40% still displayed symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety. Future research is needed to examine issues surrounding depression and anxiety of military women, including exploration of its causes in both prenatal and postpartum periods. Designing interventions to reduce fatigue symptoms among military postpartum women may result in improved parenting, decreased healthcare costs, workplace accidents, increased job satisfaction, breastfeeding rates, and physical readiness. Reducing fatigue in this population has the potential benefit of a significant cost-savings to the United States government as well as improved quality of life for military families.