By Maya Rhodan
July 2, 2015

Women in the U.S. Marine Corps and the Navy can now take 18 weeks of maternity leave, triple the amount of time they were provided prior to July 2.

Women are not required to take all of the leave at once, but they must take it within the first year of their child’s life.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Thursday allowing women to take more time off will be beneficial to both their families and their service.

“We have incredibly talented women who want to serve, and they also want to be mothers and have the time to fulfill that important role the right way. We can do that for them,” Mabus said in a statement. “Meaningful maternity leave when it matters most is one of the best ways that we can support the women who serve our county. This flexibility is an investment in our people and our Services, and a safeguard against losing skilled service members.”

The new policy is effective immediately and applies to women who took leave after Jan. 1, 2015.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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