Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during pregnancy can be from hormonal changes and a build-up of fluid during pregnancy. (Men you still need to read this! You probably know or have a mother, sister, girlfriend, or wife who this would HELP). Most experts believe that these changes in the fluid balance predisposes SOME pregnant women to develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Remember from ANATOMY OF THE CARPAL TUNNEL that the Carpal Tunnel is a bony canal formed by the wrist bones on 3 sides and a Transverse ligament that runs across the wrist on the other side, so it's a closed space. The fluid and swelling really can't go anywhere-so the overall "tightness" inside the Carpal Tunnel puts pressure on our old friend the Median Nerve and this can give you the classic numbness and tingling of the thumb and first three fingers.
A study done in 2005 looking at Carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy showed that 17% of pregnant women had CTS. Almost 25% of those had it in both wrists (called Bilateral Carpal Tunnel Syndrome).
Studies have CONFLICTED as to when it is most likely to occur. Early studies showed it was the third trimester (where weight gain increased the risk). Another study concluded that CTS developed at anytime during pregnancy.
*Most of the Conservative OR NON-SURGICAL TREATMENTS are appropriate and often helpful because symptoms usually resolve AFTER delivery in most women with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during pregnancy.
However, one study showed that 11% of women still reported CTS 6 months after delivery and 4% of them still had the condition one year later!
So don't think you are going crazy or let your doctor talk you out of further testing thinking it can't be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome because you had your baby. Most women will have more hand and wrist useage after their baby is born. Bathing the slippery little ones, screwing on and off bottle caps and baby food jars, buttoning and snapping all those new clothes! If it sounds like I've done it before too, you are RIGHT!
A GREAT and CHEAP idea for CTS sufferers when lifting a slippery wet baby out of the sink or tub is to wrap a towel around the baby's torso (under his arms) or buy some of those cotton gardeners gloves with the little rubber bumps all over them, this will give you extra gripping strength.
Breastfeeding has also been tied to FLARE-UPS of inflammatory conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
The natural steroid hormones (which have an anti-inflammatory effect-reduces inflammation) in a woman's body are temporarily lowered when breastfeeding. There are so many more benefits of breastfeeding though that out weigh this possible side effect that I would not let this stop you from breastfeeding in my opinion.
OVERALL to reduce your chance of getting carpal tunnel symptoms or carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy, you should follow your Ob/Gyn's advice and maintain proper weight gain for your build, follow a sensible diet, take prenatal vitamins and avoid repetitive hand and wrist activities.
* I would avoid taking any medications, vitamins or herbs for your carpal Tunnel Syndrome during pregnancy without the knowledge and consent of your Ob/Gyn.
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