Midwives are getting hurt: UK survey of the prevalence and risk factors for developing musculoskeletal symptoms

Objective – To investigate the prevalence, severity and impact of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and to explore individual, work-related and psychosocial risk factors Design – A cross sectional survey Setting – A self-reported online questionnaire was used to collect data over seven months (May-December 2016). Participants – The survey was distributed to midwives across the United Kingdom through the Consultant Midwives Network and the Royal College of Midwives. Measurements and findings – Prevalence, severity and impact (12-month) of MSDs for nine body parts are presented. The associations between individual, occupational and psychosocial factors and symptoms are examined using Independent samples t-test or Chi- 2 square statistical analyses, with Logistic regression analysis to understand the relative importance of variables. It was found that 92% of the participants reported MSDs, most commonly in the low back (71%), neck (45%) and shoulders (45%). Symptoms impacted on normal activities at work and/or leisure (50%), sick leave (30%) and jobs/duties (45%). Age and time practicing in midwifery were inversely associated with low back symptoms; reported less frequently with increasing age and experience. Longer working hours was a predictor for shoulder symptoms. Over commitment (intrinsic job stress) was associated with neck and more strongly with shoulder symptoms. Those caring for a dependent adult for more than 50 hours a week were 4.54 times more likely to have neck discomfort. Key conclusions – This first survey of UK Midwives reveals a very high prevalence of low back, neck and shoulder symptoms, resulting in sickness absenteeism, reduction in normal activities and changing roles. Age, years in practice, body mass index, working hours, job satisfaction and job stress are contributory factors. Implications for practice – This study highlights the prevalence and impact of musculoskeletal symptoms and the potential harmful impacts on their working life and patient care. The findings will promote risk-awareness and national actions for risk management.