The 29-year old FC Rosengård defender likely played her last competitive match of the year in April, as she and her husband expect their first child in October.
Jessica spoke with FIFPRO about her experiences with her club so far, and how the maternity policy proposed by Swedish Players’ Association Spelarforeningen and a robust implementation of the FIFA regulations on maternity and pregnancy could eliminate the sense of uncertainty she experienced herself, for other players wanting to start a family.
Congratulations, you must have been thrilled when you first realised, but were there any nerves about the impact it could have on your career?
Thanks! We are excited and scared at the same time, but of course delighted. A lot of questions instantly popped up in my head: “When and how should I tell the club? How will it work with my contract? How much longer can I play games for?” and so on.
I didn’t think about my career too much to begin with, but there was definitely some uncertainty about the future – mostly concerning what rights (if any) I would be entitled to.
How did you feel approaching your club to tell them about your news? How did they respond?
I started by telling my psychologist and the team doctor and that was fine, but I was super nervous to explain to the sports director and manager - as part of me felt like I was letting the team down. Now I realise there was no need to be anxious, as all of them have been really supportive and happy for me, even if they will miss me on the field.
“The player union in Sweden has been working on a policy for a long time”
How did you and FC Rosengård arrange your maternity leave?
I am extremely happy with how my club have handled the situation so far.
From the day I couldn’t play matches anymore, we applied for financial support from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. There’s a lot of paperwork but hopefully it will go through and then, alongside a contribution from Rosengård, I should receive at least 90% of my normal salary.
I will of course try to help the team as much as possible even if I’m not on the field with them, and we have a plan in place that will allow me to train and play football while pregnant (without contact) for as long as I can.
What do the current regulations in Sweden say regarding maternity for footballers?
To be honest I’m not even sure if they have any. However, the player union here in Sweden has been working on a policy for a long time, and it is hopefully almost in place.
One of the differences in being a footballer is that you are under contract for a certain number of years, and this pregnancy policy proposes to freeze the contract during this period - which I think is a good idea. It will also include the possibility to bring your baby to practices and games which would enable a return to work as soon as possible.
Is pregnancy something that is discussed in the changing room?
There is a lot of talk about the difficulties surrounding “the right time” to start trying for a baby, and a lot of players want a family but don’t know when to begin. Aside from the decision of whether or not to continue your career, you don’t even know how long it will take or if you can even get pregnant.
One thing that has occurred to me is that professional female footballers and their partners should have the option to undergo a fertility examination, which would at least help them to know when and if they should start trying for a family.
According to FIFPRO’s 2017 Employment Report, only two percent of female players were mothers, while nearly half said they would have to consider leaving the game early to start a family. What further steps would you like to see being taken to support mothers in football?
The improvements we see today are mostly down to the players who have been showing by example that it’s perfectly possible to be a mother and play professional football simultaneously. We need to take the next step and remove any uncertainty around the conversation with rules in place to protect future mothers.
“There should be an obligation for clubs to make a personalised plan for each player both before and after giving birth”
For example there should be an obligation for clubs to make a personalised plan for each player both before and after giving birth. This would include ongoing access to expert sports medical guidance, financial stability and support with necessary associated costs such as childcare, or appropriate accommodation during away games.
I would also like to see more research into contact sports in relation to pregnancy, to help both clubs and players feel safe in the decisions that have to be made.
Note: The new regulations about maternity agreed on by FIFA, FIFPRO and other stakeholders came into effect on 1 January 2021 and are binding at national level, unless more favourable conditions are available pursuant to national law or collective bargaining agreement. The clubs must implement these regulations before July 2021.