While age and pre-existing conditions are two of the biggest factors impacting fertility in men and women, professional athletes can also face unique fertility challenges due to the impact high-performance sports training and competition can have on their bodies.
A new game-changing partnership has been formed to educate and empower our sports stars to help them take early steps to optimise their reproductive health and give them the best chance of starting families when they are ready to.
The partnership brings together the Australian Athletes’ Alliance (AAA) - which represents player and athlete associations including in AFL, cricket, football, basketball, netball, rugby league and hockey – and leading fertility care provider Monash IVF.
Nat Butler (nee Medhurst), a former Australian Netball Players’ Association President and three-time World Cup winner with the Diamonds, has first-hand experience of fertility challenges and is providing her support for the partnership.
“The partnership between the AAA and Monash IVF Group is an enormous step forward for female athletes.
“Throughout my 17-year career, my health as a female was never a topic of conversation within my sport and having needed fertility intervention to fall pregnant with my first child, I truly understand the challenges and uncertainty that female athletes are faced with and the associated emotional impact.
“To have renowned fertility experts at Monash IVF that athletes can engage with, it will now provide much needed support and tailored education to inform our athletes about their reproductive health and improve the chances of parenthood on their terms.
“Female health is an area I have always been passionate about and I couldn’t be more thrilled about this partnership and the benefits that will be gained by the athletes and their loved ones.”
Lydia Williams, current Matilda goalkeeper, dual-Olympian and three-time World Cup player, joins Butler and other former and current players to celebrate the partnership and the necessity of better support for athletes earlier in their sporting careers.
“As female athletes, we aren't presented with the tools or given an education about the effects of elite sport on your reproductive health.
“I wish we knew more earlier, especially about taking steps to preserve our fertility and access to experts to advise us on better understanding and managing our reproductive health.”
AAA General Secretary Jacob Holmes, who played professional basketball in the NBL and with the Australian Boomers, said delivering a comprehensive reproductive care program to past and present athletes was long overdue.
“Many of our athletes have family aspirations like the rest of us but may not have the right information at the right time around fertility health and how their decisions now could impact their fertility in the future,” Mr Holmes said.
“With Monash IVF’s expert team, we aim to help our athletes better understand and manage their fertility health as well as empower positive conversations in this important area.”
Monash IVF Group Chief Executive Michael Knaap said the partnership would help past and present athletes make informed decisions about their reproductive health and fertility.
“As fertility wellness partner for AAA, we will help to educate and empower Australian athletes to ensure they are fertility fit and able to become parents when the time is right for them,” Mr Knaap said.
“Monash IVF is committed to shifting societal attitudes and behaviours in relation to fertility – not just in sport, but across the wider community - to encourage people to take proactive care of their fertility health.”
Monash IVF Group Medical Director, Professor Luk Rombauts, added: “We know that women athletes are at particular risk of experiencing difficulties with fertility. They may experience significant weight loss, endure high level exercise and a high degree of physical or psychosocial stress, all factors that may impact their reproductive cycle. Through this partnership, we hope we can inform and support athletes while they are planning for a future family.”
The partnership will provide athletes with access to a broad range of educational programs, access to a nurse advice line, menstrual health education, practical resources to assist player development managers support their athletes, fertility health assessments, egg and sperm preservation, donor services and medical investigations and treatment, when required.
Respected sports journalist and ABC presenter, Tracey Holmes, will host the partnership launch at Melbourne Olympic Park – Tennis HQ on Wednesday 29 March at 12.00pm with:
Jenni Screen, former Australian Opal, Olympic Silver 2008 and Bronze 2012, World Cup Gold 2006, commentator
Kate Gill, former Australian Matilda, Olympian, Football Australia Hall of Fame, Professional Footballers Australia Co-CEO
Paul Marsh, AFL Players’ Association CEO
Kelly Applebee, former Australian cricketer, General Manager - Member Programs & Relations at Australian Cricketers' Association
Chloe Dalton OAM, Olympian, Olympic Gold 2016, AFL-W player
Jo Weston, current Australian Diamond and Melbourne Vixen netballer, ANPA President
Jacob Holmes, former Australian basketballer, Commonwealth Games Gold medalist, AAA General Secretary and CEO of the Australian Basketball Players’ Association
Fiona Allen, Monash IVF Group Chief Marketing Officer
Media Contact: Anastasia Salamastrakis
0457 603 013