Universally, 50-70% pregnant women have experienced lower back pain (LBP). The pain can interfere with work, daily activities and sleep. Among various pain relief interventions, support garment such as the belt/binder is a common part of the treatment for LBP during pregnancy. However the effect of garment treatment on pain relief is inconclusive due to limited research evidence. Moreover, little studies have examined the design principles for the development of maternity support garments. This medical device has the potential to offer a safe, low cost, and easily accessible biomechanical solution for pregnant women with LBP. The researchers hypothesize that the mechanical properties in these garments can redistribute the fetal weight to diminish the spinal loading. This research project aims to establish design principles for the development of maternity support garment, and to evaluate the effect of a prototype garment in the relief of LBP during pregnancy. The research was conducted in three phases: Exploratory Phase, Developmental Phase, and Experimental Phase. The Exploratory Phase consisted of three parts: (1) A wearing trial to determine the factors that influence wearer's acceptability through evaluation of commercially-available maternity support garments; (2) A semi-structured interview to explore the psychological needs of pregnant women with LBP, their attitudes and expectations towards the use of support garment; and (3) A biomechanical study to measure the anthropometric changes during pregnancy. In the Developmental Phase, a prototype garment was developed based on the new knowledge of psychological considerations and biomechanical model. In the Experimental Phase, a clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the effect of the prototype garment. The research deliverables not only improve back pain and quality of life, but will also impact on the future design of support garments.
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