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Pregnancy Problems

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy

Yowch! Why you're more prone to carpal tunnel during pregnancy — and how to deal.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful hand and arm condition caused by compression of a nerve in your wrist. Pregnancy can make you more prone to carpal tunnel syndrome because all the extra fluid you retain can put pressure on that nerve.

What are the signs of carpal tunnel syndrome?

You might feel numbness, tingling and pain on the palm side of your index, middle and ring fingers. Usually, your pinkie isn’t affected. You might also feel pain starting at your wrist and radiating up your arm.

Are there any tests for carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is normally diagnosed based on the patient’s history and a physical exam. Additional testing probably won’t be done during pregnancy, but it could include an X-ray, a muscle study and a nerve conduction study.

How common is carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy?

It’s fairly common. We don’t have pregnancy numbers, but about 3 percent of all women will be diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome at some point in their life.

How did I get carpal tunnel syndrome?

During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by as much as 50 percent to adequately supply your uterus, placenta and baby. That extra fluid can compress the median nerve, the one that runs through your wrist. When that happens, it hurts (ouch!). Carpal tunnel syndrome can also be caused by repetitive wrist movements such as typing or knitting.

How will my carpal tunnel syndrome affect my baby?

It won’t. Your baby will be just fine. (Find out how to treat it on Page 2.)

What’s the best way to treat carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy?

Surgery can cure carpal tunnel syndrome, but since most cases of pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome resolve themselves after birth (yay!), surgery isn’t necessary (or recommended). Opt for less invasive measures instead. “I think the most helpful thing is to wear a splint — one of those over-the-counter wrist splints that you can buy at the pharmacy is fine,” says Michelle Collins, CNM, an assistant professor of nurse-midwifery at Vanderbilt University.

What can I do to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?

Try to avoid repetitive hand and wrist movements. (Easier said than done, but it’s worth a shot!)

What do other pregnant moms do when they have carpal tunnel syndrome?

“I asked my OB about carpal tunnel because I have it bad — she said there's nothing you can do for it during pregnancy other than get yourself wrist braces to wear overnight, and that it should go away after the delivery.”

“I can't wear my splint while I’m working, but I do wear it to bed, and I find that just immobilizing it while I'm sleeping helps. Besides that, Tylenol and ice ease the pain.”

“For me, it’s mostly just numbness and tingling in both hands. I wear a brace on my right hand (it’s the worse one) most of the time and definitely at night. I can tell a difference when I'm wearing it.”

Are there any other resources for carpal tunnel syndrome?

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Plus, more from The Bump:

Leg Cramps During Pregnancy

Tips for Working During Pregnancy

Trouble Sleeping During Pregnancy

By Jennifer L.W. Fink