Virginian-Pilot Examines US Navy Pregnancy Policies

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The Virginian-Pilot on Thursday examined U.S. Navy'spregnancy-related policies and data on pregnancy in the Navy. A newNavy pregnancy policy that went into effect in July gives women oneyear of shore duty after giving birth. Under the Navy's previouspregnancy policy, women were allowed four months of shore duty aftergiving birth before being deployed to a ship or assigned to a war zone,the Pilot reports.

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According to the Navy's 2005 biennial Pregnancy and Parenthood Survey,women comprise 15% of Navy personnel, and 38% have children. Two-thirdsof enlisted women who became pregnant had not planned to do so --higher than overall U.S. rate of 49% and above the Department of Defense's target of 30%, the Pilot reports.

Navyofficials encourage women to plan pregnancies to coincide with shoreduty. If women become pregnant during sea duty, they are transferred at20 weeks' gestation, and weight and physical fitness requirementstemporarily are eased. In addition, women receive 40 days of maternityleave after delivering an infant. Sailors only are allowed to leave theNavy before their enlistment is complete if they show "overriding andcompelling factors of personal need." Women who work in understaffedfields or who extend their enlistment for training or schooling areineligible for the exemption, according to the Pilot. TheNavy allowed 107 pregnant women to leave before their enlistment was upin 2006, compared with 96 women in 2005, according to Mike McLellan, aspokesperson for Navy Personnel Command.

The Navy emphasizes the importance of condoms, birth control pills or other contraceptive methods, according to the Pilot.It also provides access to emergency contraception, which can preventpregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, at allclinics and hospitals. A Navy training video, called "Give Yourself aChance," addresses pregnancy in the Navy. In the video, an actresswearing a sailor uniform says, "Parenthood, whether planned or not,will have a huge effect on your career. ... For a woman in the Navy,getting pregnant while assigned to sea duty disrupts her qualificationprocess" (Wiltrout, Virginian-Pilot, 10/11).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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