Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Pregnancy guidance and research is key for elite athletes – Jo Pinner

Great Britain and England hockey player Jo Pinner says access to fresh guidance and research around pregnancy is pivotal in making sure elite athletes feel safe to start a family and return to sport.

Pinner (born Hunter) gave birth in April to son Josh and returned to the GB women’s programme in September. The 32-year-old is the first England player to return to elite training after having a baby.

Pinner was one of the first to take advantage of UK Sport’s up-to-date pregnancy guidelines for elite athletes and can now expect increased and improved support. The new edition of UK Sport’s guidance is the result of extensive research and feedback following its initial publication in 2021.  

“I think it’s absolutely critical,” Pinner told PA. “We’re athletes, we do training. That’s our bread and butter, that’s what we’re here for. There is no (other) way athletes would be equipped with that knowledge.

“A big part of it was the medical side and safety, how to train safely, what’s safe to do in training, what can I take supplements-wise, all these things.

“There’s no way we could (even) be expected to be equipped with all of that knowledge. It gives athletes the confidence and trust that they are there, that there are many things less to worry about.”

Pinner had previously believed that retiring or delaying having a baby were the only viable options prior to the guidance being issued. 

Jo Hunter, middle, is aiming to be selected for Paris 2024 PIC: WORLDSPORTPICS COPYRIGHT FRANK UIJLENBROEK

Pinner, who didn’t make the recent Pro League squad, added: “Without this policy, I would have chosen the former [retirement] and missed my opportunity to go for selection for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”

The updated version contains additional resources including new and enhanced guidance on fertility, babies’ sleep patterns and managing multiple pregnancies. There is also extra detail on appropriate supplements, diet and breastfeeding.   

Pinner, who moved to Reading from Buckingham this season, is also on a WhatsApp group with fellow sporting mothers as well as mums-to-be and is keen to share her journey.

She added: “I say yes to everything, because I only think it is going to help other women. I have had comments of ‘wow, it’s cool to see that you are actually doing it because it gives me confidence in the future’ from some of the younger ones on the team.”

Meanwhile Ed Barney, England and GB Hockey performance director, said: “Supporting Jo and George Pinner in welcoming their baby into the world has been an absolute pleasure.

“From the moment Jo mentioned her pregnancy, we have relished the opportunity to support them as a family whatever direction that may have taken for Jo’s hockey career.”

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