Pregnancy is an exciting time of change in a woman’s life, which comes with its fair share of physical and emotional challenges. This is particularly true for pregnant desk workers, who typically spend several hours a day sitting down at home or in an office.
The average desk worker spends 9 hours a day seated. 65% of desk workers consequently develop musculoskeletal (MSK) issues like back pain. This is often due to poor posture and ergonomic factors such as sitting on a chair without back support, or looking down at a screen positioned too low.
For pregnant desk workers, these ergonomic risks become even more problematic. 70% of pregnant women experience lower back pain, often exacerbated by periods of prolonged sitting. Pregnant women are also much more prone to falls, overexertion and postural issues, which can have a negative effect on their overall workplace wellbeing.
Why is back pain so common amongst pregnant desk workers?
There are several reasons why back pain and other related MSK issues are so prevalent amongst pregnant desk workers:
- Postural challenges – A woman’s body undergoes many physical changes during pregnancy, including an expanding abdomen, increased curve in the lower back and shift in centre of gravity. Many women end up unknowingly slouching or leaning forward, putting extra stress on their back and shoulders.
- More weight to carry – As the baby grows, your body is forced to carry more weight which puts extra pressure on your lower back. Sitting at a desk for hours increases this pressure, often leading to back pain.
- Hormonal changes – Pregnancy triggers hormones that relax your joints and ligaments in preparation for labour. These hormones may affect the stability of your spine and pelvis, making pregnant desk workers more prone to back pain and discomfort.
- Changes in gait and balance – The physiological changes during pregnancy can lead to changes in gait, causing many women to waddle slightly when they walk. This can ultimately lead to balance issues, increasing the risk of falls and accidents.
- Increased stress and tension – It’s very common for pregnant women to experience tiredness, poor sleep and increased stress while trying to keep up with the demands of a desk job. Stress often leads to muscle tension, which can intensify any existing back pain.
6 ergonomic strategies to help pregnant desk workers avoid back pain
A well-designed ergonomic workplace can help your team avoid back pain during pregnancy. Here are six ergonomic strategies to create a more comfortable working environment for pregnant desk workers:
- Provide supportive chairs and cushions – A good ergonomic chair with proper lumbar support will help all employees maintain good posture in the workplace. Consider providing extra cushions or pillows for pregnant employees, especially those who are already experiencing back pain.
- Consider desk layouts – In the later stages of pregnancy, it becomes significantly more difficult to reach all the items in a standard desk layout. Make sure your team’s workstations are set up so they don’t need to reach further than 38–50 cm for essential items. Additionally, consider installing concave desk boards to provide more space for women in their third trimester who may have trouble sitting at a standard desk.
- Add footrests to workstations – Poor circulation and swelling in the legs and feet is very common during pregnancy. A footrest may help pregnant desk workers elevate their feet and reduce pressure on their lower back. The best footrests have adjustable height and angle settings for maximum comfort.
- Provide ergonomic keyboards and mice – Many pregnant women experience swelling or discomfort in their hands and wrists, especially after typing for long periods of time. An ergonomic keyboard and mouse can help reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries, as they are designed to promote a more natural hand and wrist position.
- Encourage regular breaks – Try to encourage all employees, especially pregnant desk workers, to take regular breaks throughout the day. It’s a good idea to have designated break areas for staff to relax and recharge. As an employer, you can also highlight the importance of short walks to improve circulation and reduce pain.
- Provide pain-reduction tools – 70% of pregnant women experience lower back pain. Other MSK issues such as hip pain and pelvic pain are particularly common amongst pregnant desk workers. Digital pain-reduction tools such as VIDA Pain Coach can help your team incorporate gentle stretching exercises into their routine, and manage their pain on their own terms.
Implementing these six simple ergonomic strategies will help you create a safer and more comfortable workplace for pregnant desk workers. For more information on how VIDA can help you support women’s health in the workplace, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.