By Ms. Marie Berberea (TRADOC)March 3, 2011
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Soldiers and physical training go hand-in-hand, but when the Soldier is pregnant the program has to be altered. In the 31st Air Defense Artillery that's where Sgt. Stacey Dawes, 31st ADA medic and noncommissioned officer in charge, comes in.
"Sergeant Major Joseph said we really needed a program that was brigadewide. He knew that I just came from Reynolds to ADA, and I had been an exercise leader at Reynolds for their pregnancy and postpartum PT program for about six months. We hit the ground running," said Dawes.
While sometimes the women literally hit the ground running, they also execute different exercises to make sure their flexibility and strength are maintained during the course of the pregnancy and beyond.
"Every month I try to do a diagnostic Army Physical Fitness Test so they can kind of gauge, this is where it's going and this is what we need to improve," said Dawes.
As with anything in nature the number of pregnant Soldiers ebbs and flows.
"It's feast or famine. We either have an abundance of postpartum Soldiers or an abundance of pregnant Soldiers," said Dawes.
With 15 pregnant and two postpartum, Dawes follows the Army Public Health Command's program on how to instruct them through the different stages of childbearing.
"I think this is an incredible program the Army offers. I invite anybody to go to any Fortune 500 Company out there and say 'OK, I'm expecting what do you have for me'' and they're like OK nothing," said Dawes.
Spc. Angel Kenyi, 31st ADA early warnings system operator, said although she is pregnant with her fourth child exercising while pregnant is new to her.
"I like it better than not working out," said Kenyi.
Kenyi said she can tell the difference and although it can become quite uncomfortable she feels it will benefit her in the long run.
"I honestly think the muscle strengthening helps me a lot in just making sure when I come back I won't be weak when I have to do push-ups."
Dawes said exercising during pregnancy also benefits the baby with less pre-term births and healthier birth weights.
The program also educates the Soldiers so they know what to expect, well, when they're expecting. One day during the week is focused on topics from how to check into the hospital to watching a woman get an epidural.
Sgt. Mindy Venable, 31st ADA human resource sergeant, said it has been a great learning experience and extremely helpful as this is her first child. She also said she likes being able to push herself at a pace she is comfortable with while in her third trimester.
According to Army Regulation 40-501, pregnant Soldiers have 180 days after giving birth to get back to regular PT standards. As the women are encouraged to decrease their cardio after the first trimester there are other factors that make working out more challenging.
"Whether you had natural childbirth or Caesarian your abs are going to suffer a little bit for it, and it takes a little bit to climb back into it and be successful in knocking out sit-ups," said Dawes.
To be proactive against losing that ability the women do modified sit-ups such as curl ups and curl downs, depending on how far along they are in their pregnancy. They also do modified push-ups by either going to their knees or pushing off a wall.
"Results have been good so far. For postpartum I've had a 100-percent success rate returning them back to their unit not only in pre-pregnancy condition, but they could pass tape and their APFT," said Dawes.
"It does prepare them. They can get right back into the swing of things, get back to their battery PT, back to training and the Army doesn't lose that investment in that Soldier."
While Dawes serves as their instructor she has also helped one of her Soldiers give birth. That Soldier will be returning to the program to follow up with postpartum fitness.