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Pregnancy-Induced Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Swelling during pregnancy is common, but when that swelling occurs in your wrists, you may experience pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). If you’re suffering, read on to learn about the possible symptoms you may experience and what you can do about them. 

How Common is Pregnancy-Induced Carpal Tunnel?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) affects 3-5% of adults in the general population, but up to 62% of pregnant people may experience symptoms of CTS. 

Why Is CTS So Common in Pregnancy?

Swelling is common in pregnancy. This is because your blood volume doubles during pregnancy, increasing swelling and pressure on all blood vessels. This extra swelling may put pressure on the median nerve. This nerve lives inside the carpal tunnel space in your wrist and, when compressed, causes carpal tunnel syndrome.

Many who report pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel do not experience symptoms until 30-weeks or after. However, some studies suggest that the median nerve is compressed to some degree in all pregnant people, whether or not they notice carpal tunnel symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of Pregnancy-Induced Carpal Tunnel?

Tingling and numbness are common. In addition, you may experience a burning sensation in your wrists or, in severe cases, experience significant pain in your wrists and hands. You may also experience a loss of dexterity in your fingers and wrists. As a result, it may be challenging to perform fine-motor activities. 

How Does a Doctor Diagnose CTS?

Your Southdale OBGYN provider will review your symptoms and your medical history with you. If your symptoms are severe, you may be encouraged to undergo an electromyography or nerve conduction study to rule out other conditions and diagnose carpal tunnel. These tests use tiny electrical discharges to test your muscles and the carpal tunnel space, looking for any interruption in the electrical impulses and any damage to the muscles.

Your doctor may also recommend an X-ray or ultrasound to rule other conditions if your symptoms are severe and a diagnosis of CTS is uncertain. 

How Long Does Pregnancy-Induced Carpal Tunnel Last?

Many people experience relief within weeks after giving birth, and most will experience relief from CTS within the first year after giving birth. However, your doctor can help you safely manage your symptoms and recommend further treatments if you do not experience a relief in symptoms. 

Pregnancy-Safe CTS Treatments

There are many pregnancy-safe treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome. 

  • Reduce repetitive activities that cause your wrist to bend. If you cannot reduce your activities due to work (typing on a keyboard, for example), look for ergonomic positions to relieve the strain on your wrists as best you can. 
  • Use a brace or splint to keep your wrist in a neutral position. Wear a brace while you sleep to keep your wrists in an optimal position. Symptoms are often worse at night because any fluids that may have moved to your feet during the day as you move around are redistributed during your sleep, causing more fluid pressure in your wrists. 
  • Use cold packs to help decrease swelling. 
  • Rest your hands and wrists as you can. Take frequent breaks if you perform an activity that causes extra discomfort. 
  • Stretch and exercise—gently. Discuss appropriate stretches and exercises with your doctor and learn techniques that can help to relieve your discomfort without causing additional stress on your wrists. 
  • Talk to your provider before taking any supplements, topical creams or pain relievers. Although some pain relievers are considered pregnancy-safe, it is best to discuss any use with your ObGyn first. 

Ask for Help!

If you experience severe pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel after giving birth, you may find that carrying and lifting your new baby is difficult or causes pain. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. A lactation consultant can help you troubleshoot difficulty breastfeeding if you’re struggling to find a way to hold your baby to breastfeed. Your ObGyn will be happy to find methods of treatment and suggest alternate ways of performing activities to manage your symptoms.

 

Pregnant woman holding her stomach