FIFA extends maternity and adoption rules. GETTY IMAGES

FIFA has issued new rules to help female players and coaches during pregnancy, extending maternity cover to adoptive parents and encouraging national teams to facilitate contact with families during major tournaments.

Football's world governing body said in a statement that the aim of the new rules, which came into force yesterday, was "to reflect the reality of women's footballand to promote inclusivity by offering protection to players who wish to start a family".

The changes come three years after FIFA imposed a maternity leave of "at least 14 weeks" on its 211 member associations, paid at "at least two-thirds of contractual salary". The new rules for adoptive parents, whether players or coaches, mean that clubs must now grant "adoption leave" of at least eight weeks if the child is under the age of two.

This is reduced to four weeks for a child aged between two and four, and two weeks if the child is older. "Players ... will be able to have the necessary time with their family to bond emotionally with their child and to settle into their new role as parents," the FIFA statement said.

"All of this will be ensured through the provision of appropriate leave and financial entitlements."

To ensure that clubs are not adversely affected by a player's absence, they will be allowed to register a replacement outside the usual transfer windows. This will allow clubs to register a new player. FIFA also stated that "in the event of painful periods or complications related to pregnancy", players will be able to take time off from training or matches while "retaining their full remuneration".

"(A football career) shouldn't be exclusive of being a mother or raising a child; it should be inclusive," said Jill Ellis, who coached the USA to two World Cup titles. "If I didn't have the support around me, I wouldn't have been able to do that and keep my career going."

In addition, member associations will be encouraged to "allow players to have more contact with their families when they are with their national team", although this will not be binding.

"In a World Cup, (a player) can potentially be away from her family for five or six weeks... and that can take a huge toll on the player, mentally, but also on the child," said Sarai Bareman, FIFA's Director of Women's Football.

"So encouraging member associations to make arrangements... for those mothers and parents to have their children with them during the camp, during the tournament, is a really important step that will support not only the female players, but all players in our sport."

The growth of women's football has accelerated in recent years. Around four million women play the game, with around 20,000 playing professionally. Only 5% of coaches are women and around 9% of referees are women, a figure that has been increasing recently, although not at the same rate as the number of women playing the game.