Pregnancy guide > Your baby in pregnancy > Pregnancy health > What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

We look at the causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and the best ways to alleviate its symptoms.
For any mum-to-be who has been woken by the sensation of 'pins and needles' in their hands in the middle of the night, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be a painful and uncomfortable experience. We take a look at the condition and what can be done to alleviate its symptoms.

What is it?
Carpal Tunnel syndrome is a pain or numbness in the hands and fingers. It gets its name from the carpal tunnel located in the wrist and can be experienced by as many as 1 in 3 women during pregnancy

What causes it?
The primary cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is weight gain or swelling due to water retention during pregnancy. This swelling leads to the Carpal Tunnel in the wrist compressing the Median Nerve. It is the Median Nerve which gives us sensation to our thumb, index, middle and half of ring finger and is primarily responsible for movement of the muscle at base of thumb. It is the pressure on this nerve that causes the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

How long will it last?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome tends to be more common during the 3rd trimester when swelling is more likely to occur. For some mothers the symptoms are relatively mild and disappear quickly after their baby is born. However, an unlucky few may experience severe discomfort which may last for several months.

If the pain persists beyond pregnancy then it may require some relatively simple and straight forward surgery. This involves a small incision being made in your palm and cuts being made to the transverse carpal ligament which will relieve pressure on the Median nerve and stop the pain.

What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome often seem to be worst at night and can result in disturbed sleep. Typical symptoms include:
  • Pins & needles or a tingling sensation centred in the thumb, index, middle or half of ring finger nearest the thumb.

  • Aching in the hand or lower forearm.

  • Weakened grip especially in the thumb.

  • Numbness in affected fingers or palm if condition worsens.

What can you do?
Most mothers-to-be tend to experience the symptoms of CTS during the night while they are sleep. If this occurs then simply shifting your sleep position whenever you experience the symptoms often helps.

Other simple steps to take include:
  • Trying to avoid sleeping on your hands.

  • Propping up your hands up on a pillow.

  • Keeping your wrist in a neutral position (straight).

  • Dangling your arm over the side of the bed.

  • Shaking your hands until pain or numbness goes.

Is there a cure?
Unfortunately, at the time of writing there appears to of been a lack of current research into the problem of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during pregnancy. If you are worried about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and are finding that it is interfering with your sleep patterns or daily routine then it is best to discuss it with your GP.

You may be prescribed wrist splints which are special bandages designed to keep your wrists in a straightened position during sleep. This helps maximises the space in your Carpal Tunnel and relieves the pressure on the Median Nerve - providing substantial relief from the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Have you ever suffered from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or do you have any novel ways of relieving the symptoms? Share your thoughts and experiences with us by visiting our AskBaby Forums.

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