FORT JACKSON, SC -- The Army's U.S. Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine recently created and instated a pregnancy/postpartum physical training program at Fort Jackson, SC, to bring pregnant soldiers back to their mission as quickly as possible, as well as increase the health benefits for both mother and child.

Program participants perform specific exercises and attend weekly educational classes to help prepare for the Army physical fitness test, which is given 180 days after a soldier gives birth.

”In the past, they would show up for [physical training] with the rest of their unit and do it on their own,” says Maj. David Price, Victory Support Battalion S-3, who oversees the program. “But many would end up not doing the exercises properly, or they would just go home.”

The program’s goal is to improve force readiness by providing a safe, effective and standardized program led by instructors in pregnancy and postpartum fitness, according to a statement from the Army.

At any given time, there are between 50 and 100 pregnant or postpartum soldiers at the installation, Price says.

”This program benefits not only the soldier's health, before and after delivery, but it has also proven to reduce difficulties that can occur during the pregnancy,” says Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Carlson, post command sergeant major.

In July, several Fort Jackson soldiers were certified in training pregnant and postpartum women to act as exercise leaders. The leaders lead the sessions and monitor the soldiers’ attendance. Participants are broken into two groups: prenatal and postpartum, Price says.

“They are evaluated by their doctor to make sure they are not a high-risk pregnancy,” he says. “Their doctor also lets them know what they are capable of doing.”

Once a soldier delivers her child, she is given four to six weeks of convalescent leave. Upon returning to duty, she is automatically enrolled in the prenatal program. A soldier is released from the program once she passes a normal physical training test.

Exercises during the pregnancy, which are conducted three to five times a week, concentrate on strength, flexibility, cardiovascular health, relaxation and stress management.