Women's Health Outcomes After Traumatic Brain Injury
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BACKGROUND: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major public health problem, yet little is known about how this injury may affect long-term outcomes unique to women. This research examined the health outcomes relevant to premenopausal women 5-12 years after injury. METHODS: This was a retrospective cohort study at eight participating acute care/rehabilitation facilities. Participants were consecutive eligible women with moderate to severe TBI. A follow-up interview assessed menstrual functioning, fertility, and pregnancy experiences before and after injury as well as cervical cancer screening. Demographic variables, self-rated general and mental health, and functional limitations were also collected. Injury-related information was abstracted from health records. Female control participants recruited were matched on age, education, and geographic location. RESULTS: Of the 104 women with TBI (W-TBI), 46% experienced amenorrhea with duration of up to 60 months. Cycles became irregular for 68% of W-TBI after the injury. These findings were significantly different from those of controls. Among W-TBI, menstrual disturbances were associated with injury severity. No differences were shown between W-TBI and controls with respect to fertility, although significantly fewer W-TBI had one or more live births, and they reported more difficulties in the postpartum period than controls. W-TBI were less likely to have regular Pap smears and reported lower mental health, self-rated health, and function. CONCLUSIONS: These findings inform prognosis after TBI for women and provide evidence for long-term monitoring of health outcomes and increased support after childbirth. More research is needed in this area, particularly with respect to the neuroendocrine system.