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Research project shapes UK Sport pregnancy guidance

Academics at Loughborough University have helped shape ground-breaking pregnancy guidance from UK Sport – the first of its kind to support Olympic and Paralympic athletes and sport governing bodies.

The guidance provides a robust framework and advice for athletes throughout pregnancy and their return to sport and has been underpinned by a research project collated by colleagues from the University.  

The research investigated the experiences of pregnancy – both first-hand and from those thinking of having children – in elite female athletes on a world-class programme.

Conducted through interviews, data analysis, and questionnaires, the findings were presented back to colleagues at UK Sport to shape the overall report.

Brought together by Loughborough’s Head of Para Sport, Nik Diaper, the project was led by Dr Emma Pullen and supported by Dr Carolyn Plateau (both School of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences).

Dr Pullen explained: “It has been great to work with UK Sport and colleagues at the British Athletes Commission and The English Institute of Sport on this project. We are really pleased that the project findings have contributed to the development of new pregnancy guidance. This is an important step forward in supporting female athlete well-being.”

Sally Munday, CEO at UK Sport, added: “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.”

The athletes involved were recruited through the British Athletes Commission and The English Institute of Sport and included a cross section of sports across both the Olympic and Paralympic programmes.