WSL must give more help on player pregnancies - Chelsea boss Emma Hayes

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes has said the Women's Super League must do more to support players through pregnancy during their careers.

Chelsea's Melanie Leupolz took time off after announcing she was pregnant in March 2022, and the midfielder made her first return in Wednesday's 3-1 league win over Brighton.

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"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."

FIFPRO, the global football players' union, issued a reminder to all football clubs in January about women's rights after helping former Lyon player Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir win a landmark maternity pay case against the club.

FIFA ordered Lyon to pay Gunnarsdottir's full salary of more than €82,000 plus interest. The midfielder, who now plays for Juventus, said she was not supported fully while at the French giants, instead only receiving "a small percentage from social security."

In January, Reading captain Emma Mukandi said the English Football Association's maternity policy -- which gives new mothers 14 weeks of full pay -- must have been written by a man.

Leupolz echoed those comments on Wednesday, saying support from clubs for pregnant players should be improved.

"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."