Background: Women Veterans using Veterans Affairs (VA) maternity care represent a high-risk population owing to the high prevalence of psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Given the increased risk of symptom recurrence and/or medication discontinuation during pregnancy, the aim of this study was to understand the relationship between mental health and health care utilization in pregnant Veterans within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Materials and Methods: Women with a confirmed pregnancy were recruited from 15 VA sites across the United States. Data sources included diagnosis codes, clinic stop codes for outpatient visits, and 30-day antidepressant prescriptions in the electronic health record. Results: Overall, mental health visits increased slightly from prepregnancy to pregnancy before decreasing in the postpartum period. For women with a prepregnancy diagnosis of depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD, there was an increase in psychotherapy utilization during the pregnancy and postpartum periods, whereas the percentage of women utilizing antidepressants only or antidepressants plus therapy decreased during these same time periods. A small proportion of women with histories of mental health conditions did not utilize mental health care within the VA during pregnancy and postpartum. Conclusions: These results inform our understanding of VA health care utilization patterns in pregnant Veterans, particularly those with a history of depression, PTSD, and/or anxiety. The strong utilization of VA mental health services during this time emphasizes the importance of optimizing the coordination of care between VA mental health providers and community-provided obstetric care to enhance outcomes for both mother and child.
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