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Carpal tunnel syndrome in pregnancy

Carpal tunnel syndrome can sometimes affect women during pregnancy. Symptoms include tingling, numbness and pain in the hand. Read on to find out more about carpal tunnel and how to relieve your symptoms.

Tingling, numbness and pain in your hand is common during pregnancy and is likely to be caused by a condition called carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s usually temporary and should go after your baby is born (NHS Choices, 2018).

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage or tunnel in your wrist. When you’re pregnant, hormonal changes often lead to fluid retention (NHS Choices, 2018). This fluid can collect around the wrist joints and press on the nerves that go from the forearm and wrist to the hand through the carpal tunnel.  

This pressure on these nerves causes carpal tunnel syndrome, which has symptoms including:

  • numbness in the hands
  • tingling and pain in the thumb and fingers of one or both hands
  • a weak thumb or difficulty gripping objects and performing fiddly tasks like doing up buttons.

(NHS Choices, 2018)

These symptoms may affect one or both hands and can often be worse at night (NICE, 2016; NHS Choices, 2018).

What is the treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome that appears in pregnancy often clears up within a few months of having your baby. You may be able to treat or ease your symptoms during pregnancy by:

  • Avoiding or taking frequent breaks from activities that make your symptoms worse.
  • Wearing a wrist splint at night to help ease symptoms. The splint will help keep your wrist in a good position and relieve pressure on the nerve. You can buy these from larger pharmacies or online. You will need to wear it at night for at least four weeks for it to start feeling better.
  • Doing hand exercises, acupuncture and yoga – there’s a bit of evidence that suggests it may help ease symptoms.

(NICE, 2016; NHS Choices, 2018).

If your carpal tunnel symptoms don’t improve, are severe or are getting worse, speak to your GP. In some cases if using a wrist splint hasn’t worked, your GP may recommend a steroid injection (NICE, 2016; NHS Choices, 2018).

Carpal tunnel syndrome recovery

For some mums, carpal tunnel syndrome can be more severe and last longer. If you continue to have carpal tunnel symptoms after this time, seek medical advice from your GP.

Further information and support

NCT’s support line offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.

NHS Choices has more information about treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/#treatment-from-a-gp   

Contact your GP if you are concerned about any severe medical symptoms.

This page was last reviewed in July 2017

Further Information

Our helpline offers practical and emotional support in many areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.

We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.