By KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Army has made a major change in policy to allow women an easier path back after giving birth.
The Army will now give active duty or reserve soldiers who have just given birth 365 days to meet body fat requirements.
Postpartum soldiers previously had 180 days to meet the body fat standards of the Army Body Composition Program, which dictates the physical requirements for all active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers.
“I encourage all leaders to proactively provide education and resources to these Soldiers to help them regain their individual readiness,” Michael A. Grinston, sergeant major of the Army, said in a statement Friday, when the announcement was made.
Grinston also tweeted about the decision, calling it “common sense.”
“This is a common sense decision to help ensure our mothers have time to recover and build back their personal readiness,” he wrote.
Postpartum is defined as the time period after a woman gives birth. It is often called the “fourth trimester” of a woman’s pregnancy.
In addition to the physical recovery and possible complications from giving birth, women in the fourth trimester are also dealing with changing hormones. That time is also when a woman is learning to care for and feed her newborn.
The extended timeline for physical requirements is the second policy change for postpartum soldiers made this year.
In January, the Army announced that women who are breastfeeding or pumping will have the option to wear an undershirt.
The Army also announced at the time that women may wear nail polish, lipstick and earrings as well as their hair in more natural hairstyles thanks to what the Army called “major revisions” to its regulations.
Women currently make up around 15% of the Army.
“We are continuously assessing our policies to identify areas for improvement, then implementing policies that demonstrate our commitment to ensuring all Soldiers feel as though they are valued members of the Army team,” Lt. Gen. Gary Brito, Army deputy chief of staff for personnel, said in a statement in January announcing the changes. “We know that actions speak louder than words when it comes to inclusivity and equity within our ranks, and we believe that the changes we announced today are one example of policies that put our people first.”
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