Can You Get an Early Military Discharge for Pregnancy?

Pregnancy Discharges Depend on Different Circumstances

Pregnant soldier
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In the past, female members of the U.S. Armed Forces who became pregnant could request a discharge and get it automatically. But in the 21st-century military, where women play a larger role than ever before, the rules surrounding discharge for pregnancy have changed. 

The rules can be a little confusing, but basically, pregnancy alone doesn't qualify an enlisted woman for automatic discharge any longer.

The specific rules about when a woman can request leave and for how long will vary depending on the branch of service she's in and her specific medical circumstances. 

Here are a few of the details about how the different branches may handle pregnancy separation issues. If you are unsure, it's best to talk to your commanding officer about the specifics around your situation. It's probably also in your best interest to inform your superiors as soon as you become aware that you're pregnant (and have had it confirmed by a medical professional). That way you have time to plan your course of action and make sure the information you're getting is accurate.

Army and Navy Pregnancy Regulations

In the Army, a woman who becomes pregnant after enlistment but before she begins initial active duty will not be involuntarily discharged due to pregnancy. She can't enter active duty until her pregnancy is over (either through birth or termination).

 

In the Navy, most separation requests due to pregnancy are denied, unless it would be in the best interest of the Navy, or, the servicewoman demonstrates a compelling personal need. No pregnant servicewoman can remain aboard a ship past the 20th week of pregnancy.

Pregnant servicewomen may remain onboard up to the 20th week of pregnancy while the ship is in port.

 Members discovered to be pregnant while deployed should be transferred ashore as soon as possible, under Navy rules. 

Types of Discharge for Pregnancy

Single parents and military spouses with children can be discharged if they fail to implement and maintain a family care plan, which is one of the terms of remaining in the military after having a baby. Basically, the pregnant servicewoman has to demonstrate that once she has the baby she will be able to fulfill her obligation to the military and provide care for her child. 

If the commanding officer is convinced that the member has done everything within his/her power to maintain a proper dependent care plan, the discharge characterization will normally be honorable. Otherwise, it would likely be general.

This brings us an important point: if you do receive a discharge due to pregnancy (assuming there are some extenuating circumstances), the type of discharge you receive can affect which benefits you are entitled to. It will also affect your veteran status, and have an impact on any veterans' benefits you may be able to receive.

Read more about separations and discharges from the military

All branches of the U.S. military are required to offer a minimum of 12 weeks of maternity leave to pregnant members, per Department of Defense order.

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