Bristol Bears star Abbie Ward's documentary exploring professional sport and motherhood

  • Abbie Ward told ITV West Country stepping out onto the pitch with her baby daughter was "one of those special days you'll remember forever"

A rugby player who returned to the pitch just months after giving birth has said she wanted to document her experience "to help future generations".

Abbie Ward, who plays for Bristol Bears and England Rugby, is the subject of a new film exploring the challenges faced by professional female athletes and working mothers.

The hour-long ITVX film, 'A Bump in the Road,' follows Ms Ward's journey to get back to playing rugby, just 17 weeks after the birth of her first child in July 2023.

Ms Ward said she decided to take part in the documentary "so people could see what it is like" returning to professional sport as a mother.

Abbie Ward playing for England Credit: PA

The Bristol Bears and England Rugby star said she had "no idea" what it would mean for her as a player when she announced her pregnancy.

"The coaches didn't have any idea either, nor did the physios or the nutritionists," she said.

"It was all a steep learning curve.

"I wanted to make sure that we could get as much learning from everything I went through, to help the next players along, and the next generation," she added.

Ms Ward, who is the first player to benefit from the Rugby and Football Union's (RFU) new maternity policy, said women face "so many pressures" when they become mothers.

The new RFU policy gives women full pay for 26 weeks of maternity leave. It also gives players the option to move into other safe employment within the rugby network, while protecting their ability to continue playing the game professionally on their return.

Abbie even carried her newborn daughter on to the pitch ahead of the game

She said her plan was always to get back on the pitch "as soon as possible" after giving birth, but that it's hard to explain to people "the pressures and the guilt that you feel".

Abbie said: "I think, as a Mum, sometimes you just can't win.

"There's so many pressures, there's so many people saying you should do it this way, you should do it that way.

"It's really hard, it's hard to explain that to other people, the pressures and the guilt that you feel.

"So I wanted to go out there and show my plan was ambitious, I was lucky to be able to do that.

"There are so many people saying you should do it this way, or you should do it that way.

"It's been a whirlwind hasn't it? But we're loving every minute, it's great. It's going amazingly."