Study to support elite athlete transition though preconception and pregnancy

07 August 2023
Three photos of Australian athletes, including pregnant Lucy Lockhard sitting on a yoga ball, Alyce Wood holding her baby sitting in front of kayak, and pregnant Noella Green deadlifting weights at eight months pregnant.
Some of the ambassadors of the Preconception and Pregnancy in Elite Sport study, Wallaroos player Lucy Lockhart, Olympic kayaker Alyce Wood with her baby, and retired rugby player Noella Green deadlifting at eight months pregnant

A CQUniversity study is seeking elite female athletes, coaches, support staff and sports management staff to help inform best practice guidelines for supporting elite female athletes through preconception and pregnancy. 

The research, conducted in partnership with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), invites national and international level athletes to share their beliefs and experiences about starting a family during a professional sporting career. 

To complement these insights, coaches, support staff and sports management staff can also share their perspective of supporting elite female athletes as they navigate preconception and pregnancy.  

Register now to participate!

CQUniversity PhD candidate Jasmine Titova is leading the study and says evidence-based support is vital as female sporting careers lengthen, and athletes want to have babies mid-career.   

“Historically, there was limited evidence to suggest elite sport was compatible with motherhood, so women were encouraged to end their athletic careers prior to starting a family,” Ms Titova said. 

“Now, the science and so many fields of competition show us that mid-career pregnancies are not only safe for athletes, but women are successfully resuming athletic careers post-partum – yet no Australian sporting body has a procedure for supporting women who want to start a family mid-career.”

The study, Preconception and Pregnancy in Elite Sport, has already attracted a number of sporting greats and industry leaders as research ambassadors, to share their own experiences of motherhood in elite sport.

The athletes, or mum-aletes, include Olympic kayaker Alyce Wood, retired rugby player and sports exercise physiologist Noella Green, and Wallaroos rugby player Lucy Lockhart. 

Experienced athlete health professionals are also supporting the study, including AIS Chief Medical Officer Dr David Hughes and Queensland Academy of Sport Chief Medical Officer Dr Sharon Stay, alongside elite coaches such as former Australian Diamonds head coach Lisa Alexander and Olympic volleyball coach Lauren Sonderberg. 

Sharing her experience, Alyce Wood said her first steps towards motherhood were tentative. 

“I was met with a lot of questions and concerns…people were overall very supportive (but) the lack of definitive research in the area at the time meant my training prescription throughout pregnancy and post-partum lacked full confidence,” she said.

Competing in Olympics in 2016 and 2020, Wood had her daughter in 2022, and is working towards Paris 2024. She said passionate, experienced support was vital to manage the balancing act. 

“My body has never been stronger and I've never been happier, and that wouldn't have been possible without such a supportive team,” she said. 

Ms Titova said the study will identify strengths, shortfalls and areas for improvement in existing supports across Australian sporting organisations, and create an evidence base for best-practice guidelines. 

“Many female athletes are frustrated about the conflicting opinions and guidance for women around managing fitness and competition in preconception and through pregnancy,” she said.

Ms Titova is conducting the research alongside CQUniversity’s Associate Professor Melanie Hayman, a world-renowned female sport participation specialist.

Athletes and support staff can register now to participate in focus groups or private interviews, or email for more information. 

Jasmine Titova.jpeg
CQU PhD candidate and Preconception and Pregnancy in Elite Sport researcher Jasmine Titova