UK Sport publish pregnancy guide to help elite athletes have both career and family

UK Sport has introduced a maternity policy so athletes are not 'forced' to choose between having a successful career and starting a family

UK Sport has introduced a maternity policy so athletes are not “forced” to choose between having a successful career and starting a family.

The guidance will be used by sport governing bodies and the UK’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes. It provides a framework which can be followed during pregnancy and post-birth.

It also confirms that athletes will continue to receive their full Athlete Performance Award throughout the duration of their pregnancy, and for up to nine months post-childbirth.

In addition, the guidance includes advice on how and when athletes should inform their sport of their pregnancy, as well as advice for the sport governing bodies for when such news is shared with them.

Useful resources such as websites, apps and social media pages are also included, alongside information on topics such as miscarriage and stillbirth.

Athletes, coaches and medical practitioners were involved in the “wide-ranging” 18-month consultation leading up to the publication of the guidance, which does not recommend a “one-size fits all approach”.

UK Sport also plans to develop further guidance focusing on surrogacy, adoption, egg freezing, IVF, and same-sex parents, and has already begun producing partner guidance for athletes who become parents.

“The publication of this pregnancy guidance for athletes and sports is an important marker for our high-performance community,” said UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday.

“We are committed to powering a diverse and inclusive Olympic and Paralympic family and no athlete should be forced to make a choice between elite sport and starting a family.

“Giving birth and starting a family can be physically and mentally challenging for a mother, so it is essential that female athletes, and sports, have the right resources at their disposal.

“We want to ensure that mothers and mothers-to-be are fully confident that they will be supported fairly and appropriately in all aspects of their life.”

Female athletes have often struggled to balance their careers with starting a family, but maternity policies in sport have improved significantly in recent years.

Olympic archer Naomi Folkard spoke about the importance of introducing maternity policy

FIFA introduced worldwide maternity regulations for female players and coaches for the first time last year, while Nike announced in 2019 it would maintain its contracts for pregnant athletes.

Five-time Olympic archer Naomi Folkard, who gave birth to her first child at the start of this year before competing at Tokyo 2020, commented on the importance of maternity policy.

“Societies’ belief system is changing for all types of equality issues the world over,” she said.

“One which is particularly close to my heart is that female athletes should no longer have to make a choice between their athletic career and having children, so I have been very lucky to have the opportunity to contribute to this UK Sport project.

“I hope in a short time that it will encourage sports science to not only begin to cover women and men equally but also have pregnancy specific research projects for female athletes.

“With the expectation that this knowledge will filter into the general community and help pregnant women the country over become more confident in following their exercise plans.”

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