UK Sport has today published pregnancy guidance for the Olympic and Paralympic high-performance community and beyond following a wide-ranging 18-month consultation.
UK Sport fundamentally believes that starting a family and being an elite athlete should not be mutually exclusive and, driven by an ambition for our high-performance community to be world-leading, has produced in-depth guidance that:
- Provides advice to athletes about how and when to share their pregnancy with their sport.
- Provides advice to sports should an athlete share their pregnancy with them.
- Recommends a framework which athletes and sports may follow to ensure a responsible and reasonable approach is adopted pre, during and post-childbirth, including return to training and competition.
In addition, UK Sport supports athletes on World Class Programmes who become pregnant and are in receipt of an Athlete Performance Award (APA).
Any athlete who becomes pregnant continues to receive their full APA throughout the duration of the pregnancy and for up to nine months post-childbirth.
Since February 2020, UK Sport has been speaking to athletes, coaches and medical practitioners within the high-performance community in the UK, including the English Institute of Sport’s Female Health and Performance Team and other Home Country Sports Institutes, in order to produce pregnancy guidance.
UK Sport is not recommending a one-size-fits all approach when athletes and sports are implementing this guidance, recognising requirements will vary significantly depending on the impact of the pregnancy, any delivery complications, and the nature of the sport the athlete is returning to.
Sally Munday, CEO at UK Sport, said: “The publication of this pregnancy guidance for athletes and sports is an important marker for our high-performance community. 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.
“UK Sport has an ambition to grow our thriving sporting system and we are looking forward to working with everyone in the high-performance community in implementing this guidance and providing world-class services to athletes.”
“I feel this guidance is a positive step in the right direction to support not only the athlete but the individual as well. Giving female athletes the ability to combine sport and motherhood is great to see and as an ex-athlete that had a child and returned to sport this would have made a huge difference to my career.”Paula Dunn MBE, Para Athletics Head Coach at British Athletics
Naomi Folkard, five-time Olympic archer, said: “Societies’ belief system is changing for all types of equality issues the world over, 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.”
Jayne Kavanagh, Head of Paralympic Culture and Operations at GB Snowsport, said: “We were delighted to support UK Sport with the development of the new guidance; this marks an important step in ensuring this level of support is available for athletes across the high-performance system. We understand that pregnancy and the months pre and post, including a return to training, can be a wonderful time for many, but also incredibly challenging. This guidance aims to provide NGBs with clarity on how we can all support athletes to the best of our ability through this time.”
“The Performance Director’s Forum was pleased to play a small part in helping UK Sport produce a truly world-class approach supporting mothers and mothers-to-be. The collaboration and development of this pregnancy guidance is second to none. We look forward to implementing these guidelines in order to best support our talented women on their elite sport journeys.”Chris Spice, National Performance Director at British Swimming
Dr Anita Biswas, Co-Lead Female Health and Performance at the English Institute of Sport, said: “We at the English Institute of Sport recognise the importance of female health and performance and are delighted to have contributed to this important pregnancy guidance for World Class Programme athletes and sports.
Pregnancy should not be a barrier to a career as an elite athlete but unique and individualised support is essential for athletes combining parenthood and sport. This guidance helps athletes and their sport’s staff to ensure that the right support is in place for a safe and healthy pregnancy, and a successful return to their athletic career.”
The guidance has been supported by a Loughborough University research project into the experiences of pregnancy in elite female athletes, which concluded that making improvements to the support offered, prior to UK Sport publishing today, would have wide-ranging positive impacts for the high-performance community.
UK Sport has also already begun producing partner guidance for athletes who become parents and how their sport can provide the necessary support.