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Petty Officer 2nd Class Kim Smith is pleased with her prenatal care received through the Navy. At 20 weeks, she has received three ultrasounds and goes in twice a month to visit the doctor. If only her future son or daughter were as accommodating.

“Went in Monday, and the kid had its legs crossed,” joked the 22-year-old sailor, who had hoped to learn the sex of her unborn child.

But if the Naples, Italy-based sailor could suggest a change in the care she’s receiving, she’d recommend more classes for fathers.

“There are so many classes for new mothers, but pregnancy affects the father just as much,” she said.

Thousands of sailors will get a chance in February to voice opinions about Navy medicine. By the end of February, 50,000 sailors should receive notices to take part in the biennial online Pregnancy and Parenthood Survey, results of which could dictate future Navy policies.

The Navy’s Office of Women’s Policy is inviting all female sailors E-2 to E-9 and O-1 to O-5 and 9,000 randomly selected male sailors to share opinions regarding pregnancy and parenting.

Input from the 2003 and 2005 surveys led to policy changes enacted last year, including more time before a new mother could deploy, increased leave time for adoptions and mandated command support for breastfeeding servicewomen, Lt. Stephanie Miller, leader of the Office of Women’s Policy, said in a statement.

For example, operational deferment for new mothers went from four months to 12 months to “properly address medical concerns that may arise following pregnancy that may not show up until six months postpartum,” she said.

Any changes that result from this year’s survey won’t happen for at least another year.

“Tentatively, results should be presented to the Office of Women’s Policy at the end of May, with additional briefings to the chain of command through the summer,” Zannette Urielle, project director with Navy Personnel Command’s Navy Personnel Research, Studies and Technology, said in an e-mail. “Any changes based on the results will likely begin happening in [fiscal] ’09.”

The Navy conducted its first Pregnancy and Parenthood Survey in 1988.

The Navy wants male sailor input to “allow the results to be generalized to the Navy population,” Urielle said. Survey results have a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.

The Navy has roughly 16,000 single fathers and about 8,000 single mothers, based on 2005 survey data. Those numbers might not reflect custodial parents, however.

“For example, for the purposes of accessing his Navy benefits, a male sailor may list a child as a dependent, but that child does not necessarily have to live ‘full-time’ with the military parent,” said Lt. Hope Brill, deputy in the Office of Women’s Policy. “That male sailor would still be considered a single father.”

The letters sent to sailors will tell members about the survey and provide each with a password and instructions on how to take it online.

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