Carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy or breastfeeding

November 01, 2013

iStock_000011577883XSmallHave you had pain or numbness in your wrists, fingers, or arms pain during pregnancy or breastfeeding?*  You’re not alone.

Up to 62% of women may experience carpal tunnel symptoms during pregnancy.  Typical symptoms include numbness and tingling in the fingers, burning wrist pain, and loss of grip strength and dexterity.   Pain is usually worse at night.  Sometimes these pains extend up the arm and even to the shoulder.

While carpal tunnel syndrome is usually associated with people who do repetitive hand movements, it’s common in pregnancy because the increased fluid load of pregnancy puts extra pressure on the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel formed by the wrist bones.

For most pregnant women, this pain goes away within a few months of giving birth, as the fluid load decreases.  For a smaller number of some women, the pain begins during breastfeeding perhaps due to repetitive hand positions.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, discuss them with your health care provider.  In pregnancy, she may recommend modifying your activity, wearing splints, diuretics, and if necessary, steroid injections.  There are also natural therapies which may help with carpal tunnel pain, but you should always check with your health care provider before trying them.

During breastfeeding, using side-lying or laid-back breastfeeding positions may also reduce discomfort.  Nursing in positions which keep the baby upright with minimal use of your hands - such as nursing a sling or other carrier - may also reduce discomfort.

* This post is intended as educational only, and not as medical advice.  Please seek advice from your health care provider for care.

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