Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for the best experience on this site, additional security, and speed.

Update browser

Pregnancy and elite sport: New research published to support athlete partners

Findings from a new study aimed to support athletes during their partner’s pregnancy have been published.

The project, that started in early 2023, has been delivered in partnership with Loughborough University, Liverpool John Moores University, and UK Sport.

Led by Loughborough University’s Dr Emma Pullen, findings highlighted the experiences of Olympic and Paralympic athletes on UK Sport’s World Class Programme (WCP) who have recently supported their partners throughout their pregnancy.

It was discovered that:

  • Athletes face significant challenges as they balance WCP commitments with supporting their partner prenatal and postpartum
  • Implications on athlete health and wellbeing, performance outcomes and equitable practice exist
  • There are opportunities for the development of athlete partner support and provision.

It has been a pleasure to collaborate with UK Sport on this research,” Dr Pullen said.

“We hope the findings will support the development of the UK Sport Partner Guidance and the provision offered to athlete partners throughout their partner’s pregnancy journey.”

Through semi-structured interviews, participants were asked to highlight the challenges they have faced and how national governing bodies (NGBs) and other sporting organisations could offer better support.

“These research findings provide excellent conclusions and recommendations that will inform the inaugural UK Sport’s Partner Guidance which will be published in Spring 2024,” added UK Sport’s Alexandra Newman and Andri Rauber.

Athletes were recruited across a spectrum of sports including hockey, cycling, para-cycling, wheelchair basketball, athletics, marathon running, para-rowing, and judo. The athletes interviewed shared their experiences from a range of perspectives. This included prenatal, postpartum, and early years.

The findings will now form the basis of UK Sport Partner Guidance, which will offer robust recommendations of how to support athlete partners on the World Class Programme. This will support heterosexual and same-sex couples, those looking to foster and/or adopt, and couples at the very start of family planning.