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SAN DIEGO — With surveys showing most Navy pregnancies are unplanned — and plenty of sailors aren't thinking about using birth control — the Navy wants to use constructive peer pressure to get sailors serious about family planning.
The conduit for the message is the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions, a peer-to-peer mentoring group tasked with addressing the subject of parenthood and family planning throughout the month of January. The group, through its official Facebook page, is sharing a briefing called "Planning Your Navy Career" that encourages sailors to plan for their family goals smartly and weigh the personal, financial and professional consequences of unplanned pregnancies, which often force sailors to rethink their immediate career paths.
CSADD, which has chapters throughout the fleet, recently shared a blog post titled "24 Tips for Having a Baby Without Going Broke" on its Facebook page, and briefing slides that address contraception and planning to have babies.
"Unplanned pregnancies, like any unplanned event, can jeopardize operational mission readiness," the briefing states. They can also "interrupt a Navy career" — for example, when a pregnant woman is disqualified from attending or completing a school or remaining in her current duty.
"Pregnancy causes less disruption to a career and to the Navy when it is planned during a shore duty tour," it adds.
About 9 percent of enlisted women and 6.2 percent of female officers are pregnant at any given time, according to the 2010 Navy Pregnancy and Parenthood survey. A survey was also conducted in 2012, but those findings have not yet been released.
Unplanned pregnancies decline
The CSADD briefing aims to dispel misinformation about pregnancy and its impact on operations. The Navy had nearly as many pregnant women on operational duty — 2,960 — as the number of men and women — 2,895 — on limited-duty status, according to the CSADD briefing.
But unplanned pregnancies still are often seen as disruptive to commands. The 2010 survey found that 63 percent of enlisted women and 30 percent of female officers' pregnancies were unplanned. That's a drop from the 2008 survey that showed 74 percent of enlisted pregnancies were unplanned.
The 2010 survey found lax attitudes about birth control — 22 percent of women and 29 percent of men reported they didn't use birth control because they "do not want to," and 3 percent of women and 5 percent of men said they were "not comfortable discussing or getting" contraception.
Overall, 5 percent said they did not use contraception because of religious or personal beliefs. And 40 percent of enlisted women reported they would have sex without birth control if their partner didn't want to use it.
Most women — 57 percent of enlisted and 74 percent of officers — who became pregnant got assigned to shore commands or activities, the survey found. Pregnancies of women on sea duty constituted less than 1 percent of the total force, according to the survey.
A holistic approach to smart family planning can enable all sailors to balance their Navy careers, care for their children and handle the responsibilities of parenthood, officials say.
"It's not about trying to tell someone not to have a family," Fleet Master Chief (SW/AW/SCW) Scott Benning, the senior enlisted adviser of manpower, personnel, training and education, said in a Navy News story. "Our leadership is focused on making sure that our sailors and their families have the very best in resources."
"Understand that your family does come first, but that you'll have commitments to taking care of that child, while serving your country," he added.
The 2010 data incorporate responses from 3,347 women and 1,897 men. The margin of error is 2.4 percent to 4 percent.