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New research to offer guidance to athletes supporting pregnant partners

Researchers from Loughborough University will spearhead a new project looking at how athletes can better support their partners throughout pregnancy.

The study – backed by UK Sport and conducted in collaboration with colleagues from Liverpool John Moores University – will investigate how athletes can keep training and competing whilst also balancing family life.

Participants will be asked to highlight the challenges they have faced and highlight how national governing bodies (NGBs) and other sporting institutions could offer better support.

The findings will form the basis of an open access report, offering robust guidance and recommendations for those affected. This will extend to same sex couples, those looking to foster and/or adopt, and couples at the very start of family planning.

Dr Emma Pullen, the project lead and Lecturer in Sport Management at Loughborough University, said: “The project will be the first to explore the experiences of athlete partners and builds on previous collaborative research with UK Sport in this area.

“The research will provide new insights to help support the development of UK Sports pregnancy guidance. The current guidance provides for an initial framework to support elite athletes through their pregnancy journey and we are delighted to continue our work with UK Sport to help expand the guidance as it relates to athlete partners and wider forms of gender equity within the high-performance community.”

Andri Rauber, Athlete Investment Manager, UK Sport added: “This research project is a pivotal marker for UK Sport funded Athletes and Sports. The outcomes of this project are two-fold; firstly, building on the pregnancy guidance published in November 2021, we want to ensure that partners within the high-performance community are confident that they will be supported fairly should they wish to start a family, and secondly, to provide Sports Governing Bodies (SGBS) with clarity on how best they can support their athletes.”  

The project follows on from Dr Pullen’s 2022 study that offered guidance to Olympic and Paralympic athletes throughout pregnancy

The project commenced in February 2023 with the first findings expected in late spring 2023. 

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/20

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2022 QS World University Rankings – the sixth year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.