Lee McConnell welcomes new pregnancy guidance for Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes after her career was cut short by childbirth.
It also provides a framework which can be followed throughout pregnancy and the athlete’s return to elite sport.
“It was really difficult for me to get back,” said former 400m runner McConnell, who had a baby in 2013.
Now 43, McConnell ran at three Olympic Games, in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
A four-time World Championship bronze medallist in the 4x400m relay, the Scot had hoped to return to the track for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in her home city of Glasgow, but announced her retirement in April of that year.
‘No income a month after having a baby’
“I fell pregnant in 2013, it was unplanned and didn’t find out until I was 12 weeks,” she told BBC Scotland.
“I gave birth on 31 October and my UK Sport contract finished the following month, so I was without any income a month after having a baby. I didn’t have any medical support in order to move forward either.
“At the time I just accepted it, but I shouldn’t have. We should have been treated better than that, so I am pleased there has been new guidance put in place now.
“When I was growing up I just assumed I would have my athletics career and when that was finished – I expected that to be late 20s or early 30s – I would then go on to have children.
‘Planning is important’
“But now there are lots of top athletes showing you can actually combine it.
“There were so many Olympic medallists in the last Games who have had children – Allyson Felix, Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce, Valerie Adams, Laura Kenny. They have all come back and shown you are capable of doing that.
“When I was in athletics, that wasn’t what was expected. The only people who were achieving that were the marathon or distance runners, the likes of Liz McColgan was able to have a child and come back. For the sprinters and more power events, there wasn’t anyone high profile showing this was possible.
“Maybe if I’d had others leading the way I would have felt differently about it.
“Knowing it’s achievable, you can plan it better. As soon as the season is finished that’s the point where you need to start trying for the baby. If you can do that there’s a good chance you can get back for the following year.”