‘Post-birth, I’ve almost felt like I’m unwelcome’ – mothers being let down on return to sport

Fachie says that while British Cycling followed improved UK sporting guidelines and provided her with adequate care throughout her pregnancy, she has lacked support from the governing body since birth, particularly when it came to her mental health.

“I’ve had a lot of postnatal issues, I was dying to breastfeed my son, and I’ve been struggling a lot. I was referred by the NHS for postnatal depression but during that time there was no psychological support from British Cycling,” she says.

Fachie, who is set to attend the World Cycling Championships in Glasgow this summer with her husband and fellow Paralympian Neil Fachie, expressed frustration that British Cycling had not gone beyond UK sporting guidelines and offered more personal attention.

“It’s little things. You are there to win medals and if you don’t win medals you are just a number. The last few months have been a real reminder that they don’t give a damn about you on a personal level.”

When asked for comment, British Cycling claimed the well-being of its riders was their “top priority”. British Cycling Director of Performance Stephen Park CBE said: “Our coaching and other support teams have worked incredibly closely with Lora and are now supporting her as we make a gradual return to full training together.”

“Drivers are regularly reminded of the additional mental health and medical support that is available to them should they need it. We will continue to listen to Lora and others to understand where we can further increase the support we offer.”

UK Sport also reiterated their commitment to supporting mothers “both on and off the pitch” following Fachie’s experience and announced they will be releasing updated guidelines later this summer.

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“The release of our Pregnancy Guide was a major step forward and so far 13 female athletes from 12 sports have been supported during their pregnancy,” said Sally Munday, CEO of UK Sport. “We are committed to continuing to drive progress on equality and to strengthen a diverse and inclusive Olympic and Paralympic family.”

“Women don’t want an advantage, just an opportunity”

Clarisse Crémer knows the hurdles that athletes face after having children. The French sailor, who is the fastest woman to circumnavigate the world solo, was spotted by her sponsor, Banque Populaire, ahead of the Vendée Globe 2024 – a sailing race so tough it’s been dubbed the ‘Everest of the Seas’ – discontinued I gave birth to a child last year. Banque Populaire insisted that Crémer’s sponsorship was too much of a risk after a change in the race’s qualifying rules put her at a disadvantage due to her absence from sailing.

Crémer believes the underlying problem is that women are seen as incapable of having both a demanding career and a child. “Becoming a mother isn’t an illness, it’s not a wound,” she laughs. “There is still a lot to do in figuring out what it means to have a baby and also to pursue an ambitious career. For some people it is quite normal that a woman has to make decisions [between the two]and that needs to be improved.

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