Army physical training doesn’t stop for a soldier who gets pregnant, but it does change.
Fort Hood’s Pregnancy Postpartum Physical Training program is designed to safely maintain physical and mental fitness during and after pregnancy.
The Army implemented the program in 2010.
“The program recognizes what a soldier who has just given birth goes through to get back to the unit and mission ready,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Johnson, a program instructor from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “The program is focused on each trimester group.”
The program divides the soldiers into four groups, one for each of the three trimesters and one for postpartum.
The separation of the groups is meant to help pregnant soldiers through their pregnancy and support them when they transition back into their units’ Physical Readiness Training schedule after delivery.
Soldiers in their first trimester can conduct modified physical readiness training workouts and perform limited amounts of running.
“I’m expecting to stay in shape throughout my whole pregnancy and make it easier to transition out of the program,” said Pfc. Raquel Warren, of 3rd Brigade’s 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, who is in her third week of the program. “We are encouraged to do our best, and it is still a relaxed environment.”
During the second trimester, soldiers move into more cardiovascular movements and into walking more.
“Their physical training changes with their pregnancy,” Johnson said. “The goal is for the soldiers to stay in shape without putting stress on the baby.”
Soldiers in the final three months, or third trimester, focus on finding and familiarizing themselves with their center of gravity and performing more stretches.
Back to standards
After delivering their babies and recuperating for at least 42 days, they move on to the postpartum group, where they remain for six months.
The goal then turns to building their fitness level back to where they comply with the Army standards.
“I believe I had a better experience being in the Army and going through this program than if I wasn’t,” said Spc. Ariel Combs, a postpartum soldier from the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion.
If enrollment in the program wasn’t mandatory, soldiers who became pregnant would have to train on their own or not at all and still meet the Army Physical Fitness Test and body composition standards six months after postpartum.
“Our purpose is to improve fitness levels postpartum, and so they will be ready for when they return to conducting PT with their unit,” Johnson said. “Intentions are to increase the (fitness test) scores along with improving the height and weight pass rate.”
In addition to supporting soldiers’ fitness, the program promotes camaraderie within the groups by surrounding the soldiers with others going through the same experiences.
“Most females say they had stopped exercising and don’t have the motivation to work out on their own,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shawanda Jackson, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the program with 1st Air Cavalry Brigade. “When they come to this program, they have their peers along with trainers that care about what they are doing.”