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Carpal tunnel syndrome in pregnancy

Carpal tunnel syndrome can sometimes occur during pregnancy. Read below for more information on the signs of the condition and forms of treatment.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition, affecting up to half of pregnant women. Symptoms include:

  • numbness in the hands
  • tingling and pain in the thumb and fingers of one or both hands
  • occasionally, reduced manual dexterity.

Symptoms are usually worse at night. 

Causes and treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome in pregnancy

In carpal tunnel syndrome one of the main nerves becomes compressed as it passes from the forearm into the hand through the 'carpal tunnel' at the wrist. When you are pregnant, hormonal changes lead to fluid retention. This can narrow the carpal tunnel and put pressure on the nerves, causing the pain or numbness in the fingers.

Treatment is usually aimed at relieving the symptoms of carpal tunnel. Painkillers such as paracetamol may help when you are pregnant, while anti-inflammatory drugs can be used after your baby is born if the symptoms persist. A wrist splint used at night can also help to alleviate symptoms. 

If you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, speak to your doctor or midwife who may refer you to a physiotherapist.

Carpal tunnel syndrome recovery after birth

Most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome resolve within six to twelve weeks after birth. If you still have symptoms after this time, seek medical help as you may need treatment to avoid permanent damage.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in every area regarding being pregnant, 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.

NHS choices offers information on carpal tunnel syndrome and its treatment