Occurrence of Low-Birth-Weight Babies Heightened in Active-Duty Servicewomen

Findings of review inconclusive for other birth outcomes, including preterm delivery or preterm labor
Occurrence of Low-Birth-Weight Babies Heightened in Active-Duty Servicewomen
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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

THURSDAY, April 25, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Active-duty servicewomen in the United States appear to have an increased occurrence of low-birth-weight babies compared with nonservice women, according to a review published online April 22 in BMJ Military Health.

Kirsten A.L. Morris and Martin McKee, M.D., from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, conducted a systematic literature review to understand the prevalence of preterm delivery, preterm labor, low birth weight, and stillbirth in babies born to active-duty servicewomen in the armed forces.

Based on 21 included studies (650,628 participants; published between 1979 and 2023), the researchers found an increased rate of low birth weight in active-duty servicewomen versus nonservice women. Evidence was insufficient to conclude or rule out whether active-duty servicewomen have increased rates of preterm delivery or preterm labor.

"Active-duty servicewomen may be at increased risk of having a low birth weight baby. However, caution is needed if seeking to generalize the findings beyond the U.S. context," the authors write. "This review highlights a growing need for female-specific research in other armed forces and, specifically, into reproductive health. Such research is necessary to inform military maternity pathways and policies in ways that safeguard mothers and their babies while enhancing military readiness."

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