Pregnancy comes with various symptoms and one is the CTS or carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome includes various sensations such as tingling, numbness, and pain in the hands. By definition, CTS is a pregnancy syndrome that happens when a build-up of fluid or oedema in the tissues of your wrist. This build-up causes swelling and the swelling results to squeezing of the nerve, called the median nerve that resembles a tunnel or a narrow passage, hence the name carpal tunnel which runs down from the wrist to the hands and fingers. This sweling is the reason for the tingling and numbness.
It is common for carpal tunnel syndrome to occur in the second trimester of pregnancy, sometome on the third. If you experience CTS in one pregnancy, there is more chances that you’ll experience CTS again in your later pregnancies. CTS are known to be gone after giving birth, but for some cases, the syndrome can continue or develop few days even after the birth of your baby.
To elaborate, the common symptoms felt during carpal tunnel syndrome are the following:
- numbness in the hands
- tingling and pain in the thumb and fingers of one or both hands
- a weak thumb or difficulty in gripping objects and performing fiddly tasks like doing up buttons
These symptoms may affect one or both hands. In cases that it affects both hands, CTS will be worse on your dominant hand, in the first, and in the middle fingers, but could still affect the whole hand. Particularly, the pain can be felt the most intensity when you wake up in the morning because of the curling up of your hands whole night.
Carpal tunnel syndrome usually occurs to you when your family has history of it. Aside form that, it could also occur if you have existing problems with your back, neck, or shoulders. In rare occasions, which when you have history of broken collarbone or whiplash injury, chances of having CTS increases because of the median nerve that passes the top of your ribcage before travelling down to the arm. Weight gain is also a factor of having CTS during pregnancy. The increase in weight usually happens in cases where you are expecting more than one baby (twins, triplets, etc), when you are already overweight before getting pregnant, and your breasts get extra bigger during pregnancy. This weight gain usually puts a lot of strain on your shoulders, ribs and arms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome may be uncomfortable and very painful, but there is nothing to worry about since it is usually not a serious condition. If it still pains you after you give birth, this only last for around three months. By then, your hormones and levels of all body fluid will eventually return to normal.
As it is not a serious condition, there are ways in which CTS can be avoided, thus the prevention of pain and numbness. Trying a balanced diet to avpid eexcessive weight gain is the most important. Make it a goal to cut down salt, sugar, and fat intake. Drinking plenty of water and eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables everyday is also recommended. Eating foods that are high in vitamin B6 is also a good help in promoting a healthy nervous system. Several foods that are good sources of vitamin B6 are sunflower and sesame seeds, dark green vegetables (brocolli, etc), garlic, hazelnuts, lean meat (such as pork and lamb), avocados, and oily and white fish (salmon, cod, etc). Supplements are also available but make sure to consult with your doctor or midwife for the proper dosage. As an additional tip, get properly supportive maternity bra for this will take the weight off from your ribcage and breastbone and also relieves pressure on the path taken by the median nerve.
When the pain due to CTS is already present, still you don’t have to worry since there are various ways in which you can ease this pain. One is by using hand splints during night. These splints will help your hands prevent the curling when you sleep. You can ask your midwife where to get these hand splints. Sometimes, your midwife will be the one to give these. Another tip is you can place your hands in an ice-cold water or you can use a bag of frozen peas against the painful area on your wrist. Gently exercising your your fingers and wrists will help in moving the excess fluid. Keeping your hands raised, if possible is also recommended. Exercises also help, as well as massages.
There are also complementary therapies that helps with carpal tunnel syndrome. These are acupuncture and acupressure, aromatherapy, herbal remedies, osteopathy, and reflexology. You can also ask for advice from your doctor or midwife on how to reduce the swelling as well as getting tips from them on what medications can be taken without prescription.