Staying fit, in general, takes a lot of effort and motivation — add a growing belly due to pregnancy, the challenge is even greater.

Fort Bragg’s Pregnant Soldier Wellness Program is designed to help Soldiers stay in shape throughout their pregnancy and teaches them how to get back into shape after delivering their bundle of joy.

The Army is the only branch of service that provides a structured, fitness program for its pregnant and postpartum Soldiers.

The program started at Fort Bragg in 1994, but wasn’t Army mandated until 2007. It is designed to help pregnant Soldiers maintain physical fitness for a healthy labor and to transition back to active duty, meeting Army physical fitness standards within six months of delivery.

“We enroll Soldiers every Tuesday afternoon in our conference room,” said Alnita Jackson, the program’s medical expert. “During that time, we go over the program and expectations and do a nurse assessment to make sure Soldiers are physically able to participate in the program.

Safety is priority. We will adhere to profile limitations and if anything looks a little off, we recommend the Soldiers to their providers for further guidance. If a Soldier is unable to participate in the physical portion of the program, they are encouraged to still participate in the educational classes we offer.”

Pregnant Soldiers exercise four days a week and participate in an educational class dealing with pregnancy, labor, delivery, and how to care for their baby. Fathers are also encouraged to attend the classes offered to pregnant Soldiers. After birth and maternity leave, post-partum Soldiers exercise five days a week, getting them back into shape to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test.

Each physical fitness class is lead by certified exercise leaders who understand the limitations Soldiers have due to their pregnancy profiles and offer a variety of exercises catered to pregnant women. Exercise sessions include medicine ball, resistant bands, cardio and when able, swimming.

Exercise leaders are non-commissioned officers who themselves have to score a 270 or higher on their APFT and are certified in a three-day course taught by the program’s medical expert. Also, Fort Bragg’s program is fortunate to have two Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation exercise instructors who volunteer their personal time to workout with the Soldiers. Fort Bragg is also able to provide a public health nurse to be available during exercise classes to ensure safety.

“We’ve had Soldiers go into labor during PT,” explained Jackson. “Having a nurse there puts the Soldiers at ease knowing they are there to help, just in case.”

Pregnant Soldiers are also mandated to wear special PT belts stating that they are pregnant in case of injury during a run or PT session.

“During the first trimester, women usually don’t look pregnant and if they were to fall or pass out, we don’t want someone causing further harm to her while just trying to help,” said Jackson.

Because the program is mandatory for active-duty, pregnant Soldiers, and Fort Bragg’s program has about 200 to 300 Soldiers participating at any given time, accountability is a must.

In 2011, the installation incorporated accountability by having participants swipe their common access cards and each Soldiers’ first sergeant is sent a roster of that day’s class.

Fort Bragg’s program is for active-duty Soldiers only, but open to Reservists on orders as well as Airmen. For more information about the program, call Alnita Jackson at 907-1049.