Carpal tunnel syndrome is very common among expectant mothers; as many as 62 percent of pregnant women suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.
The reason behind the high prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome among pregnant women has to do with the fluid retention and swelling that is so common during pregnancy. The carpal tunnel is a literal tunnel, or canal, formed by the wrist bones on three sides and a ligament on the other. Fluid retention and swelling increases the pressure in this relatively narrow tunnel, compressing the median nerve that runs through it. This compression is what causes the numbness, tingling, and pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome usually kicks in during the second or third trimester and for most women it stops within days after the birth. However, if the symptoms persist after that it is recommended to visit a hand specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Carpal tunnel symptoms may include:
- Dull ache in the fingers, hand or wrist
- Symptoms worsen at night or in the morning
- Numbness, tingling or pain in the forearm or upper arm
- Clumsy or weak grip
These are a few ways to help prevent the development of carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy:
- Eat a balanced diet with at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat foods high in vitamin B6 such as: garlic, broccoli, avocado, lean meat, salmon, sunflower seeds, etc. to promote a healthy nervous system.
- Make sure you are fitted for a properly supportive maternity bra if your breast size increases a lot. This will take the weight off your ribcage and breastbone and help prevent compression of the nerves.
- Figure out the activities that trigger or make the problem worse for you. Avoid those activities as much as you can.
- If you work at a desk and/or in front of a computer, make sure you place your arms and wrists in the correct position.
- Take breaks during the day to stretch out your hands and wrists. Try clenching your fingers into a fist and bend your wrist toward the palm. Then straighten your fingers and stretch your wrist in the other direction.
- At night, try to sleep with your wrists in a neutral position – not bent – and avoid sleeping on your hands. If the symptoms start bothering you, try propping up your arm with a pillow or two.
- Shake your hands and wrists frequently.
- Consider using a wrist brace after discussing it with a hand specialist.