Big news for women in the military came at the end of last week when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta officially okayed an order that would allow women to serve in the front lines of combat. While many celebrate the move as a victory for equality, some disagree with the decision saying that combat is still too risky for women.

One study that's making headlines since Panetta's announcement comes from researchers at San Diego's Naval Health Research Center who suggested that new moms are more prone to depression if they are deployed soon after giving birth. The study, which was published in the Journal of Women's Health concluded, "[w]omen who deploy and report combat-associated exposures after childbirth are significantly more likely to screen positive for maternal depression than women who did not deploy after childbirth."

Interestingly, not all branches of the military saw the same levels of depression. According to the study, "[p]articipants who served in the Army had an increased risk of maternal depression: Army service members tend to be deployed longer and more frequently than personnel serving in the Navy and Air Force." The study was based on surveys given to more than 1,600 women who "gave birth during active duty service."

On the surface, the study seems to give credence to the camp opposing women in combat. We can't have new moms getting all emotional on the front lines, can we? But I wonder if any one has ever done a study on new dads who are deployed soon after their children are born. Something tells me that would be hard for them too. So maybe the question isn't whether or not new moms are more prone to depression when they are deployed after childbirth. Maybe the question should be - are new parents more prone to depression when they are taken too soon from their newborn babies and asked to fight in combat conditions? If so, how can the military support new parents in a way that preserves their mental health and leaves them fit to serve in the future.
Combat increases depression risk for new moms, study finds
Study finds that new moms are more likely to be depressed after deployment, but did researchers miss the bigger question?