HUMAN FACTOR: Motherhood And Ergonomics - DR. K.M.ANNAMALAI

Although the concept of reproduction is universal, the process of motherhood is not. Even in homogenous societies consisting of human beings, a cultural discrepancy in child-bearing and child-rearing tactics is evident. As humans continue to reproduce and society continues to evolve, the nature of motherhood will experience changes, as well. New technology and discoveries directly affect every aspect of human life including labor and delivery. Only Mothers have the unique privilege of nurturing the foetus for nine months, of nursing the child for much longer, of doing the work that consists of numerous daily details - both practical and spiritual - that children require, and the tough work of raising adolescents - and later, often of looking after their children in turn. Fathers naturally do much of this work as well, but not nearly as much. Motherhood is more important than fatherhood, in practical terms as well as in physical and emotional terms, at least when the child is very small. Motherhood is different from fatherhood, and complements it. This is commonsensical to every parent.

Women Often Neglect Health When Prevention is Most Important

Raising awareness of women's health issues is important, because most women mistakenly rate themselves above average in their health habits, "Women's lives are filled with the same work stressors as men, but they generally have more household and family responsibilities," "Women find it difficult to justify using personal time for health maintenance and prevention, yet any time spent attending to health is time well spent,".


Ergonomics is the science of fitting the job to the worker, rather than fitting the worker to the job. You need to understand some basic health issues before you can understand the importance of ergonomic factors related to pregnancy. Pregnancy is a normal, healthy condition during which the woman’s body changes in many ways. During the first trimester (the first three months), the different parts of the baby are formed and the baby is at the greatest risk for harm. In the second and third trimesters the baby’s organs develop and mature, and the size and weight increase.During pregnancy the large abdomen causes the centre of gravity to move forward. A curve in the spine results causing backache and strain.

Throughout the pregnancy, the muscles of the pelvis relax, softening and stretching to increase pelvic size. Several joints, especially in the spine, become less stable and show signs of separation and movement to accommodate the growing baby. The back muscles have additional strain added to them, causing some of the low back pain often experienced during pregnancy. In a non-pregnant woman the centre of gravity is located just in front of the spine and level with the kidneys. In a pregnant woman the centre of gravity is shifted forward, straining the spine and throwing the woman off balance . This may cause her to throw back her shoulders, lean backward on her heels, and place additional strain on her lower back. The ligaments, which add support and strength, are weakened, so the woman relies only on the muscles of the back to stand upright. The back muscles become tight and tired, leading to low back pain. Postures that would further weaken and stretch her muscles, such as leaning forward at the waist, should be avoided during the pregnancy.


The main ergonomic risk factors include: awkward postures, high force, no rest and repetitive work.

Today, many women work during pregnancy and continue to do so until the birth of their child. However, working in unfavorable conditions may have adverse effects on the woman as well as her baby. The most common pregnancy outcomes studied in relation to ergonomics are gestational age, birth weight and spontaneous abortion.


The pregnant worker is at her greatest risk for injuries during her third trimester when her abdomen is at its greatest size. The amount of stress on the lower back is greater when the object carried or lifted is further away from the lower back due to the increased size of the abdomen. The further away from the body the object is, the less weight that can be lifted. 

As mentioned earlier, during the later stages of pregnancy, the curve in the lower back increases. Because of this change, the pregnant worker’s lower back muscles have to work harder in order to keep her balance. The muscles have to work harder to stand, so the worker often feels discomfort in the lower back after standing for long periods of time. The pregnant worker should also be aware of developing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Some symptoms are pain, tingling, numbness, and reduced strength of the hand. Pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the swelling of the hands and the arms.


Generally, workers whose work is physically strenuous should be considered to be at increased risk when pregnant. Physically strenuous work includes prolonged standing for more than 3 hours per day, working on industrial machines, repetitive lifting more than 10 kg (22 lbs), assembly line jobs (repetitive work), and working in cold, hot, or noisy environments.

Women in the third trimester should not perform jobs that require balance or lifting heavy weights. Exposure to loud noise, rotating shift work and long working hours should be avoided. The workstation should be adjustable to reduce any awkward postures and to accommodate the pregnant woman’s changing body. Women in jobs where they sit a lot may develop low back pain which may be relieved with the use of a proper chair with a supporting lumbar back rest, as well as a foot rest. The work station should be adjustable so the woman may work either sitting or standing, to allow frequent change in posture.

Walking should be encouraged throughout the pregnancy, but in moderation. Prolonged sitting or standing are leading risk factors for problems in pregnancy. Walking causes the leg veins to pump blood upward from the feet and helps prevent minor swelling of the ankles. Pressure from the firm edge of seat pans that can obstruct leg veins when sitting should be avoided because it may cause blood clots.

Avoid or Limit

Physical Strenuous Work, Work Requiring Balance, Heavy Lifting, Loud Noise, Shift Work, Long Working Hours, Un adjustable Work Stations, Prolonged Sitting, Prolonged Standing, Electromagnetic Field, Exposure

Heavy Lifting During Pregnancy

When you have to lift something heavy, do it correctly. Stand with your feet about a foot apart. Bend at the knees (not at the waist), and lift with your arms and legs, rather than with your back

Give your back a break. If you have a young child at home, now is a good time to get some use out of the stroller and let her practice walking more often. Put your groceries in several lightweight bags. Ask someone else to carry heavy suitcases or packages. Your back muscles will be strained even more in the pregnancy later on; try to ease their burden now.

Caring for You after a Cesarean.

The following activity restrictions are usually recommended: Limit stair climbing as much as possible. Don't lift anything heavier than your baby for the first two weeks. Ask your mate or a friend to do laundry, vacuuming, and other tasks that require bending, lifting, or pushing for at least the first few weeks after birth. Then resume such work gradually. Do not drive a car for the first two weeks. Take showers instead of tub baths until the incision is completely healed and dry.

Traveling for the Holidays while Pregnant: Best Ways to Stay Safe and Comfortable for Mom and Baby-to-Be

Navigating Air travel is probably the best option for long distance travel: it's shorter and more direct. But some airlines have certain restrictions about pregnant passengers, so make sure to check ahead. Most won't allow travel after 36 weeks, simply because of the proximity to the due date.

On the plane, it's important to wear the seatbelt comfortably and low underneath the belly. For long flights, lots of stretching and walking is important to keep the blood flowing to the legs and feet. Try to book an aisle seat if possible, as pregnant woman need to be near the bathroom.

Surviving the Car Trip

For long-distance car rides, regular stretching and bathroom breaks are absolutely necessary. Schedule a stop every two hours to allow for these activities. Also, pregnant women should not drive for long distances, as the driving position is too restrictive and uncomfortable. Even as a passenger, comfort and safety are important; seatbelts should be worn low around the pelvis at all times. If motion sickness or nausea is still a problem, pregnant women should plan accordingly. Pack a small cooler filled with light snacks that quell these symptoms:  fruits, juice boxes, whatever eases the discomfort. Keep the temperature inside the car well regulated and be sure to wear loose, comfortable layers.

Ergonomic Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms

As new mothers we spend many hours of the day and night feeding our babies. Too often we unconsciously slouch into positions that stress our joints, ligaments, and muscles. This habit aggravates postpartum postural problems, and can cause painful muscle spasms and injury.

Many new moms tend to bring their breast down to their baby during nursing, rather than bringing their baby up to their breast. Rounding the upper back makes the nipple hang downward at a poor angle for feeding. Large-breasted women often feel that they must lift the breast and turn the nipple with one hand so that it faces directly outward while nursing. This places a lot of strain on the wrist. In most cases, the nipple hangs at a poor angle because the mother’s shoulders and upper back are rounded. When the spine is in the neutral position, the nipple automatically lifts to an advantageous angle for feeding.

Give your body a much needed break by setting up an ergonomic breast-feeding station in your house. You’ll need a well fitting chair with arm rests and one or more pillows to ensure that your spine and shoulders are in the best position possible. You can use a lumbar support pillow, or roll a hand towel into a cylinder and place it behind the small of your back to help support your spine. Lean your upper torso back into chair and allow your shoulders to drop down the back. Lengthen the back of you neck and roll your chin toward your chest. The center of your ears, shoulders and hips should form one long line. Since the neutral position increases the distance between your breasts and your hips, you might need an extra pillow to elevate your baby to the correct height.

If your breasts still need support in the neutral position, roll up a small towel or receiving blanket and gently wedge it underneath your breast to increase comfort. Ideally, your baby should be well balanced and at the correct height, so that you do not need to continually use your arms and hands to support her body weight during feedings. Pregnancy and childbirth alter the dynamic structure of your body on many levels, leaving you in a weakened state that is vulnerable to pain and injury. By utilizing good postural habits while caring for your newborn, you can avoid and/or solve many common postpartum physical complaints.

Hope you enjoyed this journey and are better prepared to take good care of yourself and your patients.

Thank you mom for your love and blessings.









Please enter first name