Examining Rates of Postpartum Depression in Active Duty U.S. Military Servicewomen

Juliann H. Nicholson, Brian A. Moore, Katherine Dondanville, Brigid Wheeler, Ellen R. Devoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Postpartum depression (PPD) is understudied in military populations. The present descriptive transversal study evaluated the incidence of PPD diagnoses in U.S. military electronic health records, based on International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) and ICD-10 codes, among active duty military servicewomen between 2001 and 2018. Methods: Data on 3,724 active duty military servicewomen who served between 2001 and 2018 were drawn from the Defense Medical Epidemiological Database and stratified by race, age, marital status, service branch, and military pay grade. Single sample chi squares were used to examine observed versus expected differences in diagnosis rates. Results: The incidence rate of PPD among all U.S. military servicewomen was the lowest in 2001 (1.96 per 1,000) and the highest in 2018 (29.95 per 1,000). Servicewomen most often diagnosed with PPD were white (60%), married (74%), in the enlisted pay grades of E-1 to E-4 (60%), in the Army (43%), and were between 20 and 24 years old (46%). Statistically significant differences (p < 0.001) were found between observed and expected counts across all five demographic variables. Conclusions: This is the first population-based study to assess the incidence rates of PPD among all active duty military servicewomen. Findings that some groups were over- and underdiagnosed within each demographic category, and that PPD incidence rates have increased between 2001 and 2018, underscore the importance of further research to inform policies and interventions supporting this vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1530-1539
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • active duty
  • incidence rates
  • postpartum depression
  • servicewomen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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