Doctor Desk: Feeling numbness in your hands? Could be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Pregnancy


Carpal tunnel syndrome is a hand condition caused by compression of the median nerve (which passes through the carpal tunnel in the human wrist). The mother’s blood volume can increase by 50 percent during pregnancy. Due to the extra fluid retained in the body (called oedema) during pregnancy, the mother is more prone to carpal tunnel syndrome because the extra fluid can put pressure on that nerve. Pain, tingling in the hands, and numbness might indicate the presence of carpal tunnel syndrome. Pain might also be felt on the wrist and might radiate up the arms. During night, the symptoms might be felt more strongly though daily activities can be affected as well.

A more detailed list of symptoms are (mainly felt on the hands/fingers):

  • Sensations of being poked by pins and needles
  • A burning sensation
  • Pain
  • Aches
  • A weakened grip, especially on the fingers/thumb
  • Swelling, especially on the fingers/thumb
  • Numbness as the condition gets worse
  • Dry skin on the affected area

Roughly 60% of pregnant women suffer from this condition. Symptoms usually appear in the second/third trimesters, especially during/after the 24th week.

Most of the time, the condition is mild, and disappears soon after the baby is born. For some women, it can last for many months, in which case it is good to meet a doctor.

Steps to reduce the pain

  • Do not put extra pressure on the arms. This means taking steps like not sleeping on the arms and put extra weight on it
  • If pain is felt, moving/shaking the hands till the tingling reduces can be useful
  • Avoid keeping arms in the same position for too long
  • Frequent stretches for the hands/fingers done regularly during the day can also help
  • Avoid repetitive movement of the hands

When should the mother visit the doctor?

If symptoms get worse, contacting the doctor is best. The following warning signs must be kept in mind:

  • If the pain interferes with sleep/daily life, it is best to visit the doctor
  • There is constant numbness in the hand/any part of the hand, please visit the doctor
  • If there is a weakness in/near the thumb, please visit the doctor as it means the nerve may not be working well, and there can be a risk of permanent damage.
  • If pain/symptoms continue after the baby’s birth, please visit the doctor. The doctor may suggest an injection of steroid to reduce inflammation. Surgery is also an option.

Check with your doctor on the benefits/possibility of wearing a wrist splint.