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Program ensures health of pregnant workers

ANDREWS AFB, Md. -- All pregnant Active Duty Air Force members and Department of Defense civilian employees whose work areas are designated as an occupational risk are required to be in the Fetal Protection Program, which the 79th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Public Health Flight administers.

Other DoD civilian employees are encouraged to participate in the program.

Many DoD civilian employees have the perception that benefits or programs available to Active Duty members don't apply to them, but this isn't the case for programs the Public Health Flight offers, said Staff Sgt. Joel Segovia, 79 AMDS Occupational Health Section NCOIC.

"The Fetal Protection Program was developed to allow Active Duty pregnant women to be placed on a pregnancy profile," said Sergeant Segovia.

A pregnancy profile is a duty restriction for Active Duty pregnant women, said Brenda Stewart, 79 AMDS Public Health technician. DoD civilian employees receive a a letter containing recommendations for duty limitations. The letter is obtained by the expectant mother and is given to her supervisor and provider to ensure they are aware of, and implement, the duty limitations.

"The duty restrictions not only protect expectant mothers from any hazardous exposures, such as chemicals, ergonomics and falling hazards, but they also protect the baby," said Ms. Stewart. "The duty restrictions stay in effect through the duration of the pregnancy and ensure the women are not exposed to any risks, which may impact the health of their baby."

Ms. Stewart said pregnant mothers should also be aware of health hazards at home, such as toxoplasmosis, a disease found in cat feces, which can have a profound effect on unborn babies and newborns.

Toxoplasmosis is caused by a microscopic intestinal parasite, which is passed in the feces of infected cats, she said. The feces contaminate the cat, soil, litter and floor. A person who touches a contaminated surface may pick up an organism and contaminate other people, food and anything else they might touch.

Pregnant mothers can protect themselves from contracting toxoplasmosis by following preventive measures, such as:

- Avoid cleaning litter pans
- Avoid gardening, or if they must, garden with gloves and thoroughly wash their hands afterward to stay clear of cat feces
- Make certain outside sandboxes are covered when not in use
- Prevent cats from gaining access to sandboxes and sand piles used by children for play
- Prohibit cats to hunt and scavenge, instead have them eat dry, canned or boiled food
- Thoroughly cook meat
- Wash hands thoroughly after handling raw meat, gardening or handling soil
- Dispose of cat feces and litter daily

Ms. Stewart said additional preventive measures pregnant Active Duty members and DoD civilian employees can do to ensure a healthy pregnancy include:

- Avoiding exposure to toxic substances and chemicals
- Seeing a doctor and getting prenatal care as soon as the woman thinks she's pregnant
- Don't smoke cigarettes
- Drink extra fluids to help the body keep up with the increases in blood volume
- Eat meals in the five basic food groups
- Get plenty of rest

The Public Health's main job is to educate the base community about its programs, said Ms. Stewart. If an Active Duty member or DoD civilian employee is pregnant, they should visit the Public Health Flight as soon as possible.

"We provide them with the tools they need to know (and) what to expect when expecting," she said.

Ms. Stewart said the Public Health Flight wants to ensure pregnant Active Duty members and DoD civilian employees at Andrews maintain their duties in a healthy work environment and perform their duties within the limitations of the profile.

For more information about the Fetal Protection Program and other programs the Public Health Flight provides, call 240-857-5498. The Public Health Flight is located in Bldg. 1075.
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