The joys of pregnancy are many. The excitement of family and friends is limitless and even strangers offer an encouraging smile when they see a baby bump. Expectant moms and dads have plenty of plans, dreams and priorities during this precious time of waiting.
Pregnancy also comes with its share of growing pains and discomfort. There are the stretch marks and swollen ankles. The nausea or insatiable hunger. The exhaustion and the sudden, piercing back pain.
One lesser known, but common, effect of pregnancy is carpel tunnel syndrome. Here is a look at why so many women get carpal tunnel syndrome and what can be done to ease the pain.
What Is Carpel Tunnel?
The carpal tunnel is the name of the passageway created by bone and ligaments on the inside of the wrist.
Often thought of as an injury that only impacts those who type for a living, carpal tunnel syndrome happens when pressure is applied to the median nerve that runs through the wrist. The result is tingling, numbness or other symptoms that make doing most tasks difficult or even painful.
Why Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy?
Women are already more likely than men to get carpal tunnel syndrome. Then, as the pregnant women retains more fluid and gains weight, the pressure on the nerve increases, resulting in the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
About 62 percent of pregnant women experience carpal tunnel syndrome and it can appear in both hands during the third trimester. The good news is that it has no impact on the baby and typically goes away after birth, as the body ceases to retain fluid in the same manner.
How Can Pregnant Women Ease the Pain?
Start by identifying which activities seem to cause the symptoms, and either stop those or take regular breaks. The most likely culprit is extended time spent typing, so women are encouraged to check their workstations to ensure that the wrists are not bent as they type. There are also ergonomic keyboards or keyboard pads that can help ensure the correct position.
Try not to undertake repetitive tasks, or, if you must, wear a brace or splint. Throughout the day, take time to stretch the wrist, hand and arm. The best position for the wrist to be in is known as neutral, meaning it is not bent up or down. Pregnant women are encouraged to sleep with their wrists in this position as well, as sleeping positions can also aggravate symptoms.
If symptoms persist or become painful, consult with your doctor. Pain relievers or injections of the anti-inflammatory cortisone may be necessary. Since the carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms will most likely go away after birth, there is no need to pursue surgery, although that is an option for chronic and long-term sufferers.
Changes to a woman’s body during pregnancy can result in carpal tunnel syndrome. For most women, this is a temporary numbness or ache that will subside after birth. However, there are ways to alleviate discomfort so that women can focus on the joys of pregnancy instead of the pains.