I’ve had a couple questions/conversations during my pregnancy that have made me realize a lot of people don’t really know what it’s like for pregnant women in the military. Totally understandable, particularly because the typical “face” of the military isn’t often a woman, and definitely not a pregnant woman! (Which, particularly in my role as a Public Affairs Officer, I hope to change. The military is diverse, and I hope the American people can see that more and more in the stories shared about the military.)

Here are some FYI tidbits you guys may find interesting about pregnancy in the military:
(All from my Air Force perspective! Some of these things may be different for women in other branches.)

– We have maternity uniforms. The current Air Force ones (called maternity ABUs) have a stretchy panel in the pants and a roomy top.  There is a maternity version of the fancier blues uniform, too.  As the Air Force switches to OCP uniforms, there are maternity versions of that as well that will eventually be rolled out.

– There is also a breastfeeding friendly uniform t-shirt (ABUs) for after the baby is born.

– Pregnant women are never deployed, and they are also only sent places for other kinds of assignments where there is adequate medical care for a pregnant woman.

– My medical costs are covered by my Tricare insurance.

– I am authorized about three months of paid maternity leave (a combination of “convalescent leave” and “primary caregiver leave”). There is also a “secondary caregiver” leave (3 weeks for the Air Force) that can be used by the other parent if he is Active Duty military as well.

– I don’t have to take physical fitness tests while pregnant (normally at least a yearly requirement in the Air Force), and I don’t have to take one for about a year after giving birth.

– Women have the option to take short travel assignments (TDYs) in the year after giving birth, but they don’t have to. They can defer many such things until their baby is one year old. (How long things like deployments can be deferred currently differ from branch to branch.)

I’m always willing to answer questions about this stuff because I know it isn’t common knowledge type of info! Of course, there is a vast diversity of experiences on what it’s like to be pregnant and a mother in the military, but I can share my perspective.

Read more about mothers in the military:
Mothers Can Be a ‘Force’ of Nature – “This Mother’s Day story isn’t about your typical mom. Capt. Melissa Armstrong, currently stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base, has flown in 47 combat missions as a weapons system officer in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. In January of last year, she was fighting labor pains. By July, she was fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq…”

Some Military Women Miss Out on Maternity Leave. This Bill Would Fix That – “The same week in December that Briell Zweygardt is due to give birth to her first child she’s also scheduled to report to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan., for drills. Zweygardt, 25, is a second lieutenant in the Kansas Air National Guard and like other women in the National Guard or military reserves she’ll face a tough choice when her child is born…”

Shamed for their sacrifice: Military moms don’t always get a hero’s welcome home – “…Within the military community, this kind of sacrifice is normal; parents serving on active duty know that deployment is part of the job, as Henry noted, and with it will be missed birthdays and kindergarten graduations, Tooth Fairy duties, and other milestones in their children’s lives. Outside of the military community, these sacrifices are seen as admirable when they are made by ‘hero’ dads. Moms, however, do not always enjoy that kind of admiration without an asterisk…”

Mother & Daughter Spend Mother’s Day Deployed – (video)

Stay Active During & After Pregnancy – “For women, pregnancy can mean packing on extra pounds and cutting out exercise for a few months. This wasn’t the case for Miriam Howard, executive officer for the 62nd Maintenance Group commander, who gave birth to her son, Jalen, 16 months ago and used the qualities of the Comprehensive Airmen Fitness program to stay active during and after her pregnancy…”