The Maternity Uniform Pilot Program now allows soldiers to coordinate directly with program representatives to obtain the free uniforms and other Army maternity attire such as nursing T-shirts, instead of relying only on maternity-wear availability at base exchange stores, the service said in a recent update. Garments are then returned after use.
The Army started the pilot program in 2022 at a few bases after Congress passed the Rent the Camo: Access to Maternity Wear Act in 2020, which requires the services to make maternity uniforms more broadly available by ensuring that they get passed from one pregnant soldier to another.
Each branch was directed to establish its own program to reuse maternity uniforms, helping to close the supply chain gap that had previously left service women without access to uniforms and paying the notorious "pink tax" on uniform items unique to women.
"This program is going to help give [soldiers] the one-stop shop they need," Maj. Irma Richards, an Army logistics officer, said in a released statement. "By streamlining the process to where they only have one person to deal with ... that eliminates the back and forth a female soldier has going to several locations to obtain her uniforms."
Women in the U.S. who volunteer to participate in the pilot program don't receive the usual stipend for maternity uniforms, since the program provides them for free. For now, the program is not available to troops serving overseas.
According to the update, soldiers will receive five maternity T-shirts and three sets of the operational camouflage pattern maternity uniform. Army physical fitness uniforms and nursing T-shirts are also available, though in limited quantities.
Soldiers can keep the uniforms for up to 15 months. After that, items are recycled back into the program for the next service member.
The Army's program took off in late 2022 with just three installations providing access to it. Now, soldiers throughout the continental U.S. will be able to order and return maternity uniforms for free.
Just over 200 soldiers have used the recycled uniforms to date, though an estimated 16,000 soldiers become pregnant yearly.
The pilot program will run until 2025, or until at least 1,200 women participate, according to the Army.
After that, a recommendation on whether the program should continue will be made, according to the law passed by Congress. That proposal will be based on volunteers' input, as well as a cost-savings analysis of whether it's better to maintain a stockpile of maternity clothes or grant stipends to troops.
-- Kelsey Baker is a graduate student at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, and a former active-duty Marine. Reach her on X at @KelsBBaker or firstname.lastname@example.org.