BACKGROUND: In Scandinavia, women of childbearing age represent nearly 50% of the overall workforce. Two-thirds of these women spend a considerable time on sick leave during their pregnancies. Low back pain accounts for a significant portion of all pregnancy-related sick leave. However, pregnant women's experiences with pain-induced sick leave remains unexplored.
OBJECTIVE: The study aimed to investigate women's experiences with sick leave in relation to pregnancy-induced low back pain.
METHODS: An inductive, qualitative study based on semi-structured, in-depth, face-to-face interviews with 19 purposefully selected Danish women. Interviews were analysed by means of thematic content analysis.
RESULTS: The analysis revealed 4 categories: (1) Stuck in a diagnosis, (2) Inflexibility of the labour market, (3) Adapting to reduced capacity for work, and (4) Being socially excluded. The women's experiences revolved around disruption of their physical functioning and expected capacity for work, a loss of professional identity, and a sense of inflexibility and exclusion from important relationships at work.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings illuminate the possibilities for workplace adjustments with the intention of reducing time spent on sick leave, maintaining pregnant women's affiliation with their workplace, and a need to explore the role of healthcare professionals in addressing women's supportive needs in relation to sick leave.