Health

Elite athletes shouldn’t have to choose between their sport and pregnancy

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Every two years the world looks on in amazement like amazing athletes compete during the Olympics and Paralympics. The Olympics will inspire the community, and be a role model for all young athletes. But after inspiring many people, and as the Olympics close, athletes face a new question. What’s next?

Outstanding sports require a level of sacrifice which usually means sacrificing certain aspects of life. In many games, the top work window and the birth window for female athletes overlap in the twenty-thirty. Female athletes who are interested in having a family often face a difficult choice.

They can continue to train and build their athletic career, retire from their sport to become a mother, or they can try to do both with a few sponsors and many barriers.

Large number of Olympia mothers

The 2022 Beijing Games are celebrated growing number of Olympia mothers. Bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor (USA), biathlete Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet (France) and Luger Natalie Geisenberger (Germany) all won medals for their performances.

These “super moms” seem to be able to do both. But behind these successes are struggles, challenges and painful decisions that professional mothers are forced to make.

Ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Games, Canadian basketball star Kim Gaucher is facing the prospect of leaving her three-month-old daughter. a baby who is breastfed at home or missed the Olympics. 11-time Canadian boxing champion Mandy Bujold has been ruled out of the Tokyo Olympics. due to ineligibility to participate in the competition due to its content.

Although the rules have finally been changed to allow both to compete, these examples illustrate the urgent need to update the games. politics to illustrate the fact that abdomen and parenting does not mean the end of the exercise.

In 2019 American athlete Allyson Felix writes about her struggle to gain birth weight from her sponsor, Nike, in the New York Times. She was one of the most decorated athletes, the biggest athletes in the world, and she struggled to get support during her pregnancy. And she is not alone.

The experience of outstanding female athletes

Our team recently conducted a study to find out more about the activities of professional female athletes while on the go, and to find out consideration of sports policy regarding pregnancy.

This Olympic video looks back at athletes in Olympic history who won medals while they were pregnant.

We recruited 20 athletes (including 10 Olympic athletes) who trained or competed at the elite level immediately before they became pregnant. The stories shared by the participants shed light on the major decisions that players must make.

They describe the conflicts related to internal planning during training. They told us heartbreaking stories about how they were scared to reveal that they were pregnant for fear of losing their place in the team, losing money or even being looked down upon in their game. This needs to change.

One athlete we spoke to said, “During the Olympics, you want to get pregnant early in the year before your fourth year… like you have a narrow window to try to win or wait another four years.”

One player added, “I feel like I can’t have open communication [with coaches] “I’m afraid of being taken away.”

Professional sports teams have developed “best practice” policies for both pregnant and lactating women National Women’s Basketball Associationand Women’s Professional Professionals Association (LPGA).

The LPGA has developed a concept of being an “athlete and mother” to take into account the demographic changes of the major LPGA players who have become outstanding. athlete mother. Few sports clubs in Canada have policies that are internally relevant; majority, pregnancy is classified as “injury.” This lack of purpose, or division of the abdomen as a weakness, is clearly problematic and has devastating consequences for female athletes.

Creating policies and funding

Our research with a group of highly skilled pregnant athletes offers specific recommendations that will create an athletic environment that supports the value of pregnancy in elite athletes. And these recommendations can be implemented immediately.

For example, the development of maternity leave policies and funding programs for parental permission should be a priority for sports teams. Educating athletes, coaches and organizations about maternal health should also take place in an effort to balance pregnancy in sports, and work towards an environment that includes female athletes.

In Budget 2018, Canada sets a goal to “achieve gender equality in sports at every level by 2035“Without plans designed to support pregnant and postpartum athletes, women are being excluded at some of the highest levels of participation in sports in Canada.

Policies to support pregnant athletes will have a direct impact on all women and girls at all levels of sports. They are role models it is important to continue to engage girls in sports. Girls should know that they are in the sport, and there is room for them in the sport even if they are in their teens.

The purpose of sports and activities to support pregnant athletes has a direct impact on athletes at all levels of sports. As the Beijing 2022 Olympics and Paralympics close, we have the opportunity to change the future of athletes, so that they can continue to inspire Canadians for years to come.


Changes needed to better support pregnant athletes, say researchers


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