New Moms in the Navy No Longer Have to Take Fitness Tests in the First Year After Giving Birth

Sailors take part in the 1.5 mile run
Sailors assigned to Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron 11 take part in the 1.5 mile run as part of physical readiness test during the Navy’s physical fitness assessment 2021 cycle, held onboard Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Boatswain’s Mate Nelson Doromal Jr.)

The Navy has decided to ditch a postpartum fitness test that new mothers would typically be expected to take less than a year after giving birth.

In an administrative memo released Monday, the Navy announced that the requirement was canceled and said that instead, "sailors should participate in a progressive and appropriate exercise program, as soon as medically authorized."

The now-canceled examination, according to Navy documents, was unofficial -- meaning that they could fail with no consequences -- but intended as a way to "assess a postpartum sailor's fitness level ... to assist them with returning to Navy [fitness] standards."

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The assessment also gave commanders and unit fitness leaders "visibility on the health and fitness level of their postpartum sailors as well as an opportunity to provide assistance to sailors during their postpartum recovery."

Lt. Lewis Aldridge, a spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel, told in an email that the cancellation was made based on medical guidance from the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery's Office of Women's Health, as well as feedback from postpartum sailors and the policies of the other military services.

The Navy is the only branch that required such an assessment from its new mothers, and Aldridge noted that the service does not ask sailors returning from any other limited-duty status to complete such a test.

Aldridge said that the removal of the requirement also "provides additional privacy protections for postpartum sailors by avoiding instances where they could potentially feel guilt for failing a Wellness Physical Fitness Assessment, or PFA, despite medical guidance to not over-exert themselves during the postpartum period."

However, the postpartum test is now the latest in a long line of fitness requirements that is being reworked and reconsidered by the Navy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges sailors faced in working out and preparing for the exams.

In July 2021, the Navy moved from requiring the fleet to conduct two PFAs a year to just one after halting them entirely the year prior during the height of the pandemic. That change has stuck, and the same message that nixed the postpartum wellness test also extended that policy into a fourth year.

It also gave postpartum sailors three extra months -- 12 in total -- from birth to complete an official fitness test.

Typically, receiving too many PFA failures would lead to a discharge for a sailor. In February, however, the Navy also forgave all past failures for the fleet given that "the coronavirus disease pandemic potentially placed some sailors at a disadvantage."

The move was also an effort to help with retention.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on X at @ktoropin.

Related: Navy to Forgive Past Fitness Test Failures in Move to Keep Up to 1,500 Sailors from Getting Kicked Out

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