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When Should Military Moms Return to Duty?By Jill Lee
April 22, 1998
If a female soldier decides to have a child, how quickly will the mother be ready to return to duty? Currently, women soldiers get 6 months after delivery to meet the periodic weight, body fat and fitness tests.
A study at the Childrens Nutrition Research Center in Houston, Texas, aims to learn exactly what women can expect from their bodies before, during and after pregnancy. The Houston center is a cooperative venture of the Agricultural Research Service and Baylor College of Medicine. The U.S. Department of Defense is funding the study.
The findings should benefit not only military moms but all new mothers concerned about staying fit after pregnancy. Nutritionist Nancy Butte leads the Houston project, tracking calorie needs, body composition and physical ability of 68 military and civilian women. Specifically, the researchers are looking at how pregnancy affects body protein, muscle strength and bone mass.
The military body weight standard is based on a persons body mass index. But pre- pregnancy BMI is also a determinant of fetal growth. A woman with a BMI of 19.8 or lower should gain more weight than one with an average or high BMI. Researchers want to know if these gains are in fat mass, free fat mass or water. There may be a threshold for maternal fat below which fetal growth is compromised.
The study has already found that some military equations, based on body circumference measurements, may underestimate fat mass.
Details are in a story in the April issue of ARS Agricultural Research magazine. The story is also on the World Wide Web at: