It’s hard to imagine that not so long ago it was mandated that any women who
served in the Armed Forces would be immediately discharged upon the confirmation of pregnancy. In 1951, an Executive Order (EO 10240) signed by former president Harry S. Truman, clearly stated. “That any women serving in any branch of the military that became pregnant, birthed a child, became a parent by adoption or marriage, would be immediately dismissed of her Military obligation.”
The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) regulations specifically identified the following:
“Any enrolled women will be discharged if she becomes pregnant.” The Department of Defense in the late 1970’s finally requested that a voluntary separation policy be invoked for all pregnant women enlisted in the United States Armed Forces and maternity uniforms were now made available to all branches of the service.
Today’s Modern Military:
Women, no longer labeled “a WAC” in the Military, have come a long way since the days of Harry S. Truman. Military regulations have adapted and been created to include equality among men and women in the Armed Forces, including the option of becoming a parent. Women are no longer discriminated against for becoming pregnant and servicewomen now have the choice to either continue their military commitment, or receive a Pregnancy Medical Discharge: Chapter 8, which is Honorable.
Once a female service member has confirmation that she is pregnant, she will be immediately given a pregnancy medical profile from the attending OBGYN. This profile will ensure that the pregnant service member is not exposed to hazardous toxins, gas fumes, or any substances that could endanger the life of the child she is carrying.
- After Confirmation, the pregnancy profile should be submitted through the chain of command to ensure that the woman is not performing any life threatening duties that could affect her or her unborn child.
- Pregnant service members will immediately be excluded from all Physical Training Testing, Weigh-ins, Weapons qualifications, and Chemical Warfare training (MOPS).
- Physical fitness requirements will be limited, but should be continued in moderation. Such as daily walking and some stretching. The pregnancy profile will clarify which exercises should or should not be performed.
Note: It has been statistically proven that women who are physically fit and moderately exercise daily while pregnant could potentially lesson the strain of labor and delivery.
I was an active duty servicewoman, and birthed both my children while in the United States Army. I continued to exercise daily with my Company during Physical Fitness Training, which resulted in mild labor pains and my children were born within fifteen minutes of arriving to the hospital. This fact may not apply with all military pregnancies, but the attending ONGYN clearly stated, “That continuing to exercise daily can be a contributing factor to easy labor and delivery.
Active Duty Work Requirements While Pregnant:
This factor could depend on the female service member’s job description and physical requirements. For instance, if a pregnant servicewoman works in a hazardous environment where toxic fumes could be inhaled and affect the unborn child, the woman would be relocated to an administrative position or another non-threatening duty while pregnant. The Armed Forces have implemented many precautionary factors to Military regulations to ensure the safety of the mother and the unborn child.
Active Duty: 20 Weeks Pregnant:
- Exempt from participating in parades and standing in formation for longer than fifteen minutes.
- Will not be subjected to swimming qualifications or drowning training.
- Will not be subjected to field duty or any field training.
Active Duty: 28 Weeks Pregnant:
- The pregnant servicewoman will be entitled to fifteen minute rests every 2 hours.
- A work week will not exceed forty hours and the servicewoman will not be obligated to work more than 8 hours a day.
Note: After a servicewoman has reached 36 weeks her weekly duty requirements will be limited, her scheduled OBGYN apportionments will be every two weeks and then proceed to once weekly until the child is born.
Post Pregnancy (Active Duty Military)
The servicewoman will automatically be given 42 days of maternity leave and upon her return to active duty she will receive a Medical profile for 180 days. This will give the servicewoman time to regulate her weight and prepare for physical fitness testing. In addition, the servicewoman will be required to maintain an up-to-date Family Care Plan for her family and child, in the event of a mandated deployment.
In all actuality, being pregnant in the military is not so much different than being pregnant as a civilian. The United States Armed Forces have taken the necessary action to ensure that all servicewomen who are pregnant have the medical treatment and required comforts that may be needed.
Can I be deployed after delivery?
Yes! Once you have returned from the 42 day maternity leave and have an up-to-date dependent care plan in place, you as a mother are susceptible to being deployed. This is one reason why an expectant mother is asked if she would like to discharge from the military while pregnant. Once you have found out that you are pregnant, it is recommended that you discuss your options with a platoon SGT. This will ensure that you have all the vital information needed to determine if being a military parent is right for you and your family.
Now, I am what many of you “young bucks” would consider old school. I enlisted in the late 80’s and I have been around and know a few things about the military. After birthing each of my children I had the option to take a chapter 8, honorable discharge, but I declined. I knew once I returned from maternity leave that I would be deployed and that was a choice I made. My military journey may be different from that of many other women who enlisted in the armed forces. My decision to continue with my military career had no effect on my children; they have grown into very successful adults. I will say that it was difficult to return home and have to get to know my own children again after long deployments. But in the end I would not change anything.