The U.S. Air Force is giving airmen who suffer a miscarriage a more flexible time period before they take their next physical fitness assessment, according to an updated instruction.
The Air Force will officially give PT exemptions for pregnancies that last fewer than 20 weeks, according to the new instruction, "Duty Limiting Conditions." Air Force Magazine was first to report the news.
The Air Force in 2015 gave women who had pregnancies lasting at least 20 weeks -- including miscarriages -- the exemption from PT for a year. Women who suffered miscarriages earlier in their pregnancies were evaluated for exemptions on a case-by-case basis.
Now, women who have pregnancies that last fewer than 20 weeks will also be given a grace period: Women whose pregnancy ends in a miscarriage between 12 and 20 weeks "will have a fitness assessment exemption of 180 days," the AFI said. A pregnancy duration of "up to 12 weeks will have a fitness assessment exemption of up to 60 days," it said.
The recommendation came from an obstetrics consultant during an annual review of the AFI, said Lou Burton, spokesman for the Air Force Surgeon General's office.
"Providing guidance to ensure standardization is key in caring for our Airmen and Space professionals, especially during traumatic events like a miscarriage," Burton said in an email. "Applying a consistent approach also helps our members be medically ready to deploy and standardizes the process for our medical personnel."
The service has been working to remove more career-limiting barriers for women, especially for those who are trying to have a family.
For example, the Air Force last year began allowing some female pilots to stay in the cockpit longer without a medical waiver, removing some restrictions on flying while pregnant and eliminating the requirement for "a higher headquarters waiver" for airmen with uncomplicated pregnancies to be able to return to flight.
Last month, the service said it has begun allowing all pregnant and postpartum airmen to attend professional military education without requiring an exception to policy or a fitness assessment test first.
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.