The Navy is nixing the postpartum “wellness” physical fitness assessment, or PFA, that new mothers in the fleet had been taking in recent years after giving birth, per the recommendation of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery’s Office of Women’s Health.
The wellness physical fitness assessment program included the body composition assessment and the physical readiness test as part of an unofficial evaluation for postpartum sailors that took place six to nine months after giving birth.
The Navy previously said the assessment sought to help sailors return to physical fitness standards, while providing commanding officers with insight concerning their health and fitness levels.
And while not passing the wellness PFA did not count as an official PFA failure, the Navy is now cutting the requirement in order to ease the burden on new mothers, according to Lt. Lewis Aldridge, a spokesperson for the Chief of Naval Personnel.
“The removal of this requirement provides additional privacy protections for postpartum Sailors by avoiding instances where they could potentially feel guilt for failing a Wellness PFA, despite medical guidance to not over-exert themselves during the postpartum period,” Aldridge said in an email to Navy Times. “Additionally, evidence suggests that Sailors are not expected to be fully successful on the PFA at 6-9 months postpartum.”
Aldridge also noted that similar wellness PFAs are not required for other sailors returning to medically unrestricted duty after a period of limited duty stemming from medical issues or injuries.
Additionally, he said no other branch of the military requires a wellness fitness assessment for postpartum service members.
The Navy’s new policy instead instructs sailors to “participate in a progressive and appropriate exercise program, as soon as medically authorized, to return to Navy physical fitness standards,” according to a naval administrative message released Monday that announced the policy change.
Sailors are exempt from taking the official PFA for 12 months post-delivery, and the service encourages sailors to refer to the official U.S. Navy Pregnancy and Postpartum Physical Training and Nutrition Guidebook in the interim.
The guide is accessible via the Navy Physical Readiness Program webpage and the Navy Official PFA App.
Previously, postpartum sailors would receive medical clearance from a health care provider, or receive an Authorized Medical Department Assessment before completing the wellness PFA. Upon successful completion of the wellness PFA, they would then return to command or unit physical training.