Pregnancy alters the body’s shape & thus, the interaction with the worksite. The abdomen becomes increasingly larger, causing progressive postural problems, backache, & impairment of dexterity, agility, coordination & balance. Hormonal changes affect the ligaments, increasing the likelihood of injury. Joints in the spine become less stable & show signs of separation & movement to accommodate the growing fetus.
Following simple steps to adjust your computer workstation that suit your body and its changing needs in your pregnancy will greatly improve the way you feel at the end of the day.
Ergonomic concerns that a pregnant woman experience include:
Most employers immediately consider the harmful effects of chemicals in the workplace when first notified of a pregnancy.
Less obvious, yet equally important to the pregnant employee’s health & well-being, are ergonomic hazards such as awkward postures, heavy lifting, limited rest periods & repetitive force. Back pain & Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) are relatively common side effects of pregnancy as well, & both may be aggravated by job tasks.
As the pregnant worker’s body changes shape, new hazards related to reach, balance, lifting and repetitive motion may develop. Employers must be aware of these changes in order to continue to provide a safe, comfortable workplace.
- Sustained & repeated postures
- Pressure on hard surfaces while typing
- Improper mouse operations
- Forward head
- Leaning forward away from the back of the chair
- Bending sideways to use alternate work space
- Sliding the chair across the work surface
- Awkwardness, fatigue & tendency to lose balance become critical when quick reaction time or work on elevated surfaces is required. For example, work on platforms or the use of step stools may now present a greater hazard.
- Standing for long.
Tips for pregnant working women:
While application of sound ergonomic principles benefits all workers, the following actions can be considered when modifying a pregnant worker’s job:
- Tasks should be arranged to minimize twisting the body and stress on ligaments. For instance, a document holder placed next to the monitor reduces turning of the head and neck, protecting against straining these muscles and ligaments.
- Sitting can be more difficult than usual, as immobility can lead to pain. This is especially a problem with the added back strain pregnancy causes. Moving around during the work day is therefore critical. Standing up for quick breaks or at least switching positions can help avoid the worst of these problems.
- Limit standing time to less than three hours a day.
- Use only adjustable ergonomic chairs. Use of a lumbar cushion is particularly useful during the third trimester.
- Adjust the height of the work surface so that you can minimize the reaching distance. Women late in pregnancy may prefer a considerable lower table height than common guideline heights.
- Modify the height of the monitor and keyboard to reduce the risk of CTS. As your abdomen gets larger, you should adjust the desk according to it.
- Install foot rests (for seated and standing workers) so that one foot can be alternately raised.
- Lift only items less than 10 pounds/5 kgs if it is necessary, to keep your spine safe.
- Adjust work hours (e.g., flexible scheduling, day shift rather than night). Modify break schedule (e.g., shorter, more frequent breaks).
Pregnant workers require extra attention with respect to potential ergonomic hazards that are either created or exacerbated by pregnancy. Appropriate accommodations can prevent injuries, enhance the employee’s comfort, and help her better handle the stress of work combined with the physical changes related to pregnancy.
Also Read: Benefits of Exercising in Pregnancy, Comfort in Labour, Breathing in Labour & Workstation Ergonomics