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VA Research Spotlight

Highlights of VA research on women's health

July 18, 2018

This month our focus is on research that examines disease, trauma, and mental health issues that affect women Veterans.

Women's Health

Women's Health Fact Sheet Currently, there are 2 million living women Veterans who make up 10 percent of the total Veteran population. VA researchers are looking at a broad range of health issues related to women Veterans, including gender differences in health status and health care; risk and resilience factors; mental and behavioral health; the impacts of military service, era of service and combat; sexual trauma; gynecological and reproductive care; access to care; and women Veterans' experiences of and preferences for care. Recent research is also addressing issues related to intimate partner violence and homelessness among women Veterans, as well as special needs of specific populations of women (e.g., rural dwellers, minorities, and LGBT Veterans).


VA Research Quarterly Update

How intimate partner violence affects women Veterans How intimate partner violence affects women Veterans
Dr. Katherine Iverson is a clinical psychologist and researcher in the Women's Health Division of the National Center for PTSD, located at the VA Boston Healthcare System. Her research focuses on women's health and trauma—in particular, intimate partner violence in women Veterans. (March 2018)



Trauma-sensitive yoga for female Veterans with PTSD and military sexual trauma Trauma-sensitive yoga for female Veterans with PTSD and military sexual trauma
A research team at the Atlanta VA Medical Center aims to find out if yoga can help with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder in women Veterans. Dr. Ursula Kelly has started a clinical trial to study the benefits of yoga for Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma and who also have PTSD. (March 2018)



Awards and career milestones

VA Researcher Receives DAV Special Recognition Award VA Researcher Receives DAV Special Recognition Award
Dr. Elizabeth Yano was honored with the Disabled American Veterans' Special Recognition Award for her extensive research and work on behalf of the nation's women Veterans. Yano and her colleagues are investigating the value of evidence-based programs in improving the quality of women's health care in VA. 02-21-2018



VA Research Currents

A new battlefront A new battlefront
Researchers are helping VA design and deliver services for homeless women Veterans, or those at risk for becoming homeless—and seeking to understand the factors that drive homelessness in this population. In the Veteran population, the profile of a homeless man is often different from that of a homeless woman. Female Vets are more often homeless with children and tend to double-up with family or friends. (03/21/2018)



Study to focus on women with limb loss Study to focus on women with limb loss
A VA researcher in New York has Department of Defense funding to study the unique physical and psychosocial needs of women living with amputation. Dr. Roxanne Disla was first inspired to become an occupational therapist as a nine-year-old, when she saw the profound effect the therapy had on her sister, who was born with developmental disabilities. (02/08/2018)



Research links multiple forms of trauma with eating disorders in female Vets Research links multiple forms of trauma with eating disorders in female Vets
VA research has identified clear ties between trauma and eating disorders in women Veterans. One recent study found that women who reported military sexual trauma were twice as likely to develop an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating.  (07/20/2017)



Large study assessing needs, experiences of pregnant and postpartum Veterans Large study assessing needs, experiences of pregnant and postpartum Veterans
Little is known about how women Veterans access and use maternity care during pregnancy and following childbirth. Researchers are thus undertaking one of the most comprehensive VA studies yet on women's maternal health care issues. (06/07/2017)



Gestational diabetes and preeclampsia rates higher in women with PTSGestational diabetes and preeclampsia rates higher in women with PTSD
Posttraumatic stress disorder may be a risk factor for two common pregnancy complications, according to a VA study. Women Veterans with PTSD receiving care in the VA health care system had higher rates of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia than those without PTSD. (04/26/2017)



VA Research News Briefs

Review: Childhood sexual abuse can lead to sexual dysfunction in women

Review: Childhood sexual abuse can lead to sexual dysfunction in women©iStock/chameleonseye

A review by Doris Miller VA Medical Center and University of Texas at Austin researchers confirmed that women with childhood sexual abuse histories had higher rates of sexual dysfunction, compared with women without a history of abuse. Lack of positive emotions related to sexuality appears to be the most relevant factor in sexual dysfunction. Lack of positive emotions was more common than direct negative emotions connected to sexuality. Studies show that mindfulness-based sex therapy and expressive writing treatments are effective for this group. More studies are needed on exactly how childhood sexual abuse can lead to sexual dysfunction, say the researchers. (Sexual Medical Reviews, April 2018)

Gender-tailored alcohol screening improves detection among women

Gender-tailored alcohol screening improves detection among women ©iStock/kieferpix

Gender-tailored binge-drinking screens may improve detection of women's unhealthy alcohol use, according to a study by researchers from several VA systems. Women and men have different patterns of alcohol consumption. But the usual screens for binge drinking are based on men's drinking patterns. In a survey of more than 1,000 women Veterans, 6 percent screened positive for unhealthy alcohol use on the standard assessment. When a gender-tailored binge-drinking question was added, 10 percent screened positive. When researchers lowered the threshold score for what was considered unhealthy alcohol use, 21 percent of women screened positive. Using gender-tailored screening could improve alcohol screening in women, say the researchers. (American Journal of Addictions, March 2018)

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