Ergonomics During Pregnancy: What to Expect from your Chair When You’re Expecting
When it comes to ergonomics, pregnant women require more attention than the average worker to account for conditions caused or exacerbated by pregnancy.
Most companies today have established ergonomics programs and strive to offer a comfortable, safe work environment for all employees. In doing so, they typically provide adjustable workstations that are flexible enough to accommodate the smallest to the largest workers, and in most cases, these workstations do the job — until a worker becomes pregnant.
Also complicating matters is the fact that a woman’s growing abdomen alters her centre of gravity, which inevitably increases her chances of falling. As a woman’s body becomes increasingly larger, progressive postural problems, backache are the result, along with the impairment of her dexterity, agility, coordination and balance.
To account for these changes, employers are encouraged to make an increased effort to account for the ergonomic needs of pregnant women. Seeing as each pregnancy is different, however, employers make sure to address each individual’s needs and circumstances and all aspects of the job when it comes to making workplace modifications.
Ergonomic Hazards for Expecting Employees
For any employee, sitting 8-10 hours a day behind a desk or in front of a computer screen can lead to back and neck injuries, stiff muscles and joints, poor circulation, worker’s fatigue, and more.
However, pregnant women face even more challenges, as pregnancy alters the shape of the body and the way women interact with their workspace. For example, a growing abdomen alone causes backaches, progressive posture problems, and reduced agility and coordination. Similarly, to accommodate the growing foetus, joints in the spine become less stable, while hormonal changes affect ligaments and increase the risk of injury.
As pregnancy progresses, women must lift items further away from their bodies, having to reach 15-20 inches to access their workstation. Since the growing foetus alters the centre of gravity, pregnant women are also more susceptible to falling. In addition to affecting balance, lifting tasks, and posture, studies suggest that there is a link between ergonomic stressors and unfavourable pregnancy results. Things to avoid are standing for long periods of time, working long hours, and repetitive lifting.
Pregnancy and Lower Back Pain
Expecting mothers often develop a curvature in the lower back (also known as an accentuated lumbar lordosis) due to weight gained in the lower abdomen. In fact, each pound a woman puts on during pregnancy can creative five extra pounds of pressure on the hips, knees, and lumbar spinal joints. Moreover, elevated hormone levels lead to increased ligament laxity, predisposing pregnant women to joint instability and an increased risk of strains and sprains.
Ergonomic Accommodations for Pregnant Workers
To accommodate pregnant women, both employers and expecting moms themselves are advised to take make ergonomic friendly workplace modifications. Here are some expert tips to ensure the safety and comfort of working women during pregnancy.
- Neutral posture brings daily comfort: elbows level with the keyboard so your shoulders are relaxed, feet flat and supported, avoid awkward postures
- Take frequent breaks from sitting, walking and stretching to increase circulation in your legs and feet, which are prone to swelling and possible blood clots during pregnancy
- Invest in an adjustable ergonomic office chair with excellent lumbar support and well cushioned seat to support growing body and possible sensitive tailbone, or add a thin lumbar pillow for extra support and comfort to existing chair
- For stable posture comfort, feet flat on floor or supported with a footrest. Use a footrest to reduce swelling and reduce pressure on the joints
- To accommodate your growing abdomen and the increasing curve in your spine, adjust the height of your monitor and desk
- Use a softer wrist rest with your keyboard to prevent the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome caused by increased fluid in the joints during pregnancy
- Avoid heavy lifting and do not lift items directly from the ground
Source credits: https://www.ehstoday.com/news/ehs_imp_34483