In recent years, top-level athletes have made headlines by rewriting the narrative surrounding pregnancy in sports.
As more and more world-class competitors choose to continue their sporting careers while pregnant, they are challenging traditional beliefs and forcing governing bodies into action. These days, the idea of a pregnant athlete is no longer far-fetched or uncommon. With high-profile examples such as Serena Williams, Allyson Felix, and Sky Brown continuing to compete at the highest level despite being pregnant, female athletes are actively changing how society views pregnancy in elite sports.
Determination And Resilience
The most obvious example of how top-level athletes are rewriting the pregnancy narrative in sports is through their sheer determination and resilience in continuing to compete despite having a child on the way. As highlighted by Olympic gold medallist Allyson Felix’s impressive 2020 Tokyo qualifying time of 50.07 seconds in her 400m sprint event at just 33 weeks pregnant—the same time she ran before becoming pregnant—these women are showing that motherhood should not be viewed as an obstacle when it comes to achieving sporting greatness.
Normalizing Maternal Health Issues
Athletes who have continued competing during their pregnancies have also been commended for normalizing issues related to maternal health within sports. Both Allyson Felix and Serena Williams experienced difficult pregnancies due to complications related to blood clots—a common yet often overlooked issue—and both were vocal about calling attention to these issues while making sure that their own rights as professional athletes were respected and upheld.
Moreover, their stories have opened up conversations surrounding maternity rights in sports and increased public pressure for governing bodies like FIFA and USADA to create policies that better protect female athletes’ health during pregnancy without stigmatizing them or otherwise affecting their competitive opportunities.
These organizations now offer policies such as extended maternity leave periods with guaranteed salary protection for professional soccer players, an unprecedented step just a few years ago when many top players would feel obligated to retire from the game upon becoming mothers. Women's sports leagues such as WNBA have also followed suit with similar policies, providing additional protections for players who become pregnant after signing contracts but before the start of a season.
To Sum It Up
It is undeniable that top-level athletes are rewriting the narrative around pregnancy in elite sports by continuing to compete during their pregnancies while advocating for greater protections for themselves and other athletes facing similar challenges.
By doing so, they are forcing governing bodies into action on issues related to maternity rights while inspiring others with their strength, courage, and determination throughout this unique journey they face as professional competitors who happen to be mothers too.