You’ve probably heard of carpal tunnel syndrome before, and you probably thought that only people who spend all day typing on a computer were at risk for it. They sell all kinds of mouse pads and keyboard accessories to ease the pain of carpal tunnel at the computer, so such an assumption makes sense. However, the people who type all day aren’t the only ones at risk for the condition. Becoming pregnant actually puts you at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome as well.

If carpal tunnel syndrome comes on for the first time during your pregnancy, you’ll probably notice an uncomfortable tingling sensation in your hands. You might even attribute this feeling to your hands being “asleep” at first if you’ve never had carpal tunnel before, but you’ll probably become suspicious when it keeps coming back unprovoked. The sensation might also feel like a dull pain or ache and might extend to the forearm.

Carpal tunnel syndrome that comes on during pregnancy is caused by fluid retention, and it usually gets worse in the middle of your second trimester. Unfortunately, it won’t go away until after you’ve given birth and the fluid is released. A recent study showed that 50% of women who had carpal tunnel during their pregnancy didn’t notice it going away until a whole year after they gave birth. Thirty percent from that same study were still affected by it after three years. This is because the fluid is actually pressing on a nerve in your wrist while you’re pregnant, and that nerve might still be affected after the fluid goes away.

If you’re struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome during your pregnancy, make sure you figure out which activities bother your wrists the most. Avoid activities that cause the carpal tunnel to flare up if possible. If you notice it coming on while you remain still, consider using a splint to keep your wrist straight when you are relaxing. Yoga also increases blood flow in your whole body, so it too can relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel.

For the most part, carpal tunnel during your pregnancy is simply one of the many inconvenient side effects as long as it doesn’t start interfering with your daily life. There is a good chance the symptoms will go away soon after you have given birth, so you’ll probably only have to deal with it for approximately six months.

Source: Luca Padua et al: Systematic Review of Pregnancy-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Muscle & Nerve Volume 42 Issue 5 pp. 697-702 November 2010

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