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UK Sport Unveils Enhanced Pregnancy Guidance

Jo Pinner training at Bisham Abbey whilst pregnant earlier this year

Pregnant athletes can expect increased and improved support following the publication of updated guidance by UK Sport.

The new edition of UK Sport’s Pregnancy Guidance and Support for UK Sport-Funded Athletes is the result of extensive research and feedback following its initial publication in 2021.

Two versions of the guidance have been compiled, one for athletes and another for sports governing bodies (SGBs).

The documents are designed to offer details of the support available to pregnant athletes while they are on a World Class Programme, and the ways in which SGBs can make sure they offer the level of resources and reassurance each athlete may require.

As the guidance points out, raising a family and being an elite athlete should not be mutually exclusive. While childbirth dramatically changes a woman’s life, with the appropriate support and guidance, they will have the best opportunity to continue their career in elite sport and achieve their sporting ambitions.

The guidance covers a host of subjects relating to pregnancy and post-childbirth. While it is designed for UK Sport-funded athletes and SGBs, the advice is applicable to non-Olympic and non-Paralympic sports and sportspeople too.

Communication and knowledge are at the heart of the guidance, with extensive details relating to the relationship between the athlete, their SGB and their medical practitioners.

The updated version contains additional resources including new and enhanced guidance on fertility, babies’ sleep patterns and managing multiple pregnancies. There is also extra detail on appropriate supplements, diet and breastfeeding.

Access to a new mothers’ group for athletes, the Athlete Pregnancy Network, is also available via the UK Sports Institute (UKSI), while advice is offered for mothers and SGBs for various scenarios, such as bringing a baby into a training or competition environment.

The new and updated pregnancy guidance can be found on our website here.

Sally Munday, CEO of UK Sport said: “We believe that the revised guidance will offer enhanced support to pregnant athletes, and to their SGBs.

It was always intended that we would revisit the guidance following its initial publication in 2021, and we are thankful for the many people who have given their time to help develop this further.

“Pregnancy is an important time in any woman’s life, and we hope that elite female athletes – and the SGBs that support them – will benefit from the guidance and the wealth of useful and relevant information it includes.

“The welfare and wellbeing of athletes and their families is a top priority for us. We will, naturally, continue to monitor the effectiveness of the guidance and would welcome feedback which could help inform future editions.”

Ed Barney, England and GB Hockey Performance Director, said: “Supporting Jo and George Pinner in welcoming their baby into the world has been an absolute pleasure.

From the moment Jo mentioned her pregnancy, we have relished the opportunity to support them as a family whatever direction that may have taken for Jo’s hockey career. 

The UK Sport pregnancy policy was critical in ensuring that Jo, the UKSI and GB Hockey were well positioned throughout her pregnancy and return to training.   

As it turns out, Jo made a return to our centralised training at 5 months post-partum. The teams supported her with a staggered and supported return to training ensuring she had everything she needed at every step.

Having open and trusting conversations with the coaching and MDT have been central to our ways of working and hopefully ensured that Jo felt clear, supported, and informed through every step of the journey.”

England and GB Hockey athlete, Jo Pinner said: “Before the first maternity guidance was introduced in November 2021 I thought my only options were to retire early from international hockey or keep playing and delay starting a family.

Without this policy, I would have chosen the former and missed my opportunity to go for selection for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

“There is a huge amount of amazing resources as part of this policy to help women navigate pregnancy and parenthood.

This is helpful not just for athletes but for staff at the national governing bodies to help support their athletes.

“The guidance has helped me and many other women so far, and hopefully many more in the future. This next iteration of the guidance can only be a positive one for the athlete community and it demonstrates UK Sports commitment to continually improve the support and resources to woman.”

British Judoka, Nekoda Smythe-Davis said: “I am delighted to read that the pregnancy policy has been updated to further support athletes who choose to get pregnant while still on the WCP, I personally have been supported greatly in my pregnancy and return to judo.

Keeping my APA throughout the maternity period and beyond has allowed me to continue focusing on my job as an athlete whilst also navigating my new responsibilities as a mother.

I still can’t believe 7 months out from the Games in Paris 2024, I am sitting in direct qualification for the Olympics. I just never thought 3 years ago it could be even possible for me to do both motherhood and athlete life successfully.”

Nigel Donohue, British Judo Performance Director said: “British Judo, with the assistance from UK Sport and the UK Sport Institute Female Health Team, provided support to Nekoda Smythe-Davis throughout her pregnancy and her return to elite competition. It was a first for British Judo to be a part of a pregnancy journey with a female athlete on our WCPP.

“The comprehensive support we received from our partners ensured Nekoda’s well-being was at the forefront of our minds whilst bolstering her throughout her transformative journey into motherhood.

“The British Judo Medical Team supported Nekoda with a pre and post-birth training programme which ensured that her return to judo and competition was achieved in a safe environment.

The plan was a systematic, incremental process that supported Nekoda both on and off the mat as she overcame the challenges of returning to elite sport and becoming a new mother.”

“British Judo is proud that we have been able to assist a female athlete to become a parent and be in contention to realise her Olympic ambitions in Paris.”

Stephen Park CBE , Great Britain Cycling Team Performance Director said:

“We’re incredibly proud of the support we have provided to a growing number of new mums on our team through their pregnancy and then back into training and competition.

Through supporting these riders our coaching, performance lifestyle and medical teams have learned a huge amount, and over time have tailored our provision in a way that best enables riders to balance life as a mum with continuing their sporting careers at the highest level.

“Having a baby should never be a barrier to participation in elite sport and we are encouraged to see further guidance from UK Sport which reflects what the sector has learned, and will both benefit and give confidence to many more athletes in the future.”