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Ask the Doc: How Can the Military Health System Help Me Through My Pregnancy?

Image of Ask the Doc: How Can the Military Health System Help Me Through My Pregnancy?. U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Megan King, a certified nurse midwife at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, uses a tape measure to determine fetal height on a maternity patient during a prenatal examination on Sept. 18, 2023. The measurement in centimeters should correspond to the number of weeks of pregnancy. The Military Health System has a host of resources for pregnant and postpartum parents. (U.S. Navy photo by Deidre Smith, Naval Hospital Jacksonville)

Dear Doc,

I just found out I’m pregnant with my first baby and am so excited—but also kind of scared. As the partner of an active duty service member, I’d like to find out what resources are available and what I can expect during my pregnancy in the Military Health System and after my baby arrives.

--New to this Whole Thing

Congratulations on your exciting news.

Approximately 100,000 babies are born within the MHS each year, ensuring a wealth of experience in prenatal care, labor, delivery, and postpartum care—all covered fully by TRICARE.

U.S. Navy Capt. (Dr.) Kelly Elmore, an OB/GYN and chief of staff at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, offers these valuable insights. She also shares her insights on a video about resources within the Military Health System.

______

Dear New,

Here’s how the MHS can help you during your pregnancy and afterwards.

Begin with pre-pregnancy counseling with your primary care provider.

After a positive home pregnancy test, contact your primary care clinic for confirmation and a referral to a prenatal provider under TRICARE.

For challenges in accessing care, consult a military prenatal provider, guided by your health care benefits advisor.

The Prenatal Pathway, aligned with professional health care guidelines, includes regular check-ups, starting between six to eight weeks of pregnancy, where you go through nursing intake, or triage, you get your history and physical, receive prenatal vitamins, baseline lab results, and first visit with a nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife, family medicine specialist, or obstetrician.

If you have pain or bleeding, then we see you earlier.

From there, you follow the TRICARE Prenatal Pathway, which is the Department of Defense pregnancy and postpartum book of information and resources. Other examples include the U.S. Navy’s phone application.

Other military-wide resources for pregnancy and new families include Pregnancy and Parenting Resources from TRICARE.mil and the New Parent Support Program and Parenting from Military OneSource. TRICARE offers a number of resources from pregnancy health and wellness to breastfeeding and quitting smoking while pregnant or a parent, children’s health tips and organizations, and support and advocacy.

The pathways follow the professional guidelines and best practices of the American Association of Family Practitioners, the Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses.

For routine and uncomplicated pregnancies, we see you every four to six weeks, during your first and second trimesters, and every one to four weeks during your third and fourth trimesters based upon your health.

High-risk pregnancies receive specialized care. Behavioral health services are available for depression throughout your pregnancy and post-partum depression.

For 24/7 advice, there’s the TRICARE Nurse Advice Line. I recommend parents put this service on speed dial. Many times, the Nurse Advice Line can resolve the concern or guide you to the right provider with an appointment, if needed.

Postpartum care has evolved beyond the traditional six weeks after delivery and takes into consideration the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of giving birth, not to mention the newly realized financial impact. Appointments are scheduled based on the health of the patient, family, and child.

The MHS emphasizes inclusivity, supporting various family structures, and aims for world-class, evidence-based health care to ensure your family thrives.

Here's to a healthy pregnancy and best wishes for a safe delivery.

___

Dear New,

Dr. Elmore has some great advice, and there are so many resources you and your partner can use during your pregnancy and beyond. As always, take care out there.

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Last Updated: February 07, 2024
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