Women’s Super League clubs need to do more to help players who have babies, says Chelsea manager Emma Hayes.
Chelsea midfielder Melanie Leupolz made her first start since returning from maternity leave in the 3-1 win over Brighton on Wednesday.
“If a player tears an ACL, you do everything possible to get them back on the pitch in nine to 12 months,” Hayes told Sky Sports.
“We should be exactly the same with a woman that has a baby, but we don’t.”
Hayes added: “I think we have to ask ourselves more seriously why that is.”
Hayes, who had a child in May 2018 while in charge of Chelsea, introduced a pelvic floor coach to help Leupolz’s return.
“We pride ourselves on leading the way in many ways and I know the job we’ve done with Melanie is the best we possibly could,” she said.
In January, Reading captain Emma Mukandi criticised the Football Association’s maternity policy, saying it must have been drawn up by a man.
The FA’s maternity policy gives new mothers 14 weeks of full pay.
“If I was to have a kid now, I don’t think I’d be able to return 14 weeks after giving birth,” Mukandi, 30, said.
Germany midfielder Leupolz, 28, announced she was pregnant in March 2022.
In January, she extended her contract after returning to the squad following maternity leave.
“She deserves it,” added Hayes on Wednesday.
“There’s nothing worse than her worrying about that. We value her, so give her the contract and let her get on with getting back to her best football.”
Leupolz said support from clubs for pregnant players was not “where it should be right now”.
“If I have positive experiences, when I share them I think it helps clubs to see what’s possible,” she told Sky Sports.
“We can use this as an example for women’s football and also other athletes.
“The good thing is Emma had a child herself, she knows what is important.
“You don’t have to stop your career just for giving birth and with the right network and support everything is possible.”
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