Pregnancy, Parenthood, and Elite Athletics: “There’s a Lot of Work Still Yet To Be Done”

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Sydney V.M. Smith School of Human Kinetics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada

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Audrey R. Giles School of Human Kinetics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada

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Francine E. Darroch Department of Health Sciences, Faculty of Science, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada

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Several female athletes have recently challenged the long-standing assumption that pregnancy/parenthood (particularly motherhood) and participation in elite-level sport are mutually exclusive. These women’s actions have elicited change across the elite athletics industry and have sparked a need for further research to understand how elite athlete-parents perceive these shifts. We used feminist poststructuralist theory, feminist participatory action research, and semistructured interviews to explore the perspectives of 21 pregnant and parenting elite/international and world-class athletes (11 women and 10 men) on the developing degree of acceptance of parenthood in elite athletics. Through feminist poststructuralist discourse analysis, we identified that, despite considerable recent advancements, there is still a need for continued change in the degree to which pregnant/parenting elite athletes are accepted and supported within elite athletics.

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