Pregnancy is one of the many attributes that can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, due to the changes in hormone levels, which can cause a woman to experience fluid buildup in her body. The carpal tunnel is a tunnel in the wrist and forearm that includes the median nerve and nine flexor tendons that surround the nerve. Here is where the fluid can build, around the tendons and tissues that aid in lubricating the tendons to allow for them to glide smoothly through the carpal tunnel. If any or each of these nine tendons swell up, they pinch the median nerve, which in turn causes numbing, tingling and sometimes pain.
According to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome is a very frequent complication for pregnant women. They reported that nearly 62% of pregnancies experience some form of carpal tunnel syndrome symptom or pain. The most typical symptoms include numbness and tingling of the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers. Wrist pain, loss of grip strength and dexterity has also been reported. Median nerve function is impaired in nearly all-pregnant women during the third trimester, even when symptoms are absent. Most women experience symptom improvement following delivery of their child, with a significant percentage of symptom issues up to at least 3 years post-partum and continue to wear splints or wrist braces.
Treatment Options for Pregnancy Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
• Wrist Splints – The wrist splint keeps the wrist in the same neutral position and can be worn both day and night. Typically, individuals will wear them during the nighttime while sleeping to prevent the wrist from bending. Within a couple of weeks, most pregnant women will notice an improvement in their symptoms after they wear the splint. Wrist splints can be bought over-the-counter at pharmacies, or from a provider such as the aPallo Wrist Brace System.
• Resting the Hand and Wrist – The more your hands and wrists are at wrist and in a neutral position, the greater the chance of relieving the carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
• Control the Symptoms – Repetitive hand and wrist movements can cause carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms to flare up. Make sure to take breaks from constant movement to allow the hand and wrist to rest and recover. Typing, driving, texting and similar activities can cause the pain or numbness to increase if break periods are not taken to rest.
• Cold Compresses – Placing an ice pack during any symptom experiences may help to alleviate pain and tingling. With the aPallo Wrist Brace System, a small compartment area allows for you to utilize a cold compress to ease the carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
• Medications – It is considered safe for pregnant women to take an injectable steroid. These injections are applied directly into the carpal tunnel to significantly reduce symptoms. Depending on the conditions and response to the initial corticosteroid injection, the doctor may suggest a return visit for another one. If injections are not advisable, corticosteroids are available in oral tablet form; however, the injections are considered most effective for treatment of the conditions.
Birthing Positions for Women with CTS
During the laboring process, pregnant women with carpal tunnel syndrome should consider positioning techniques that will aid in alleviating the discomforts associated with the symptoms and pain. For example, if you are leaning forward on your arms on a laboring ball make sure to lean on clenched fists or lean on your forearms. The idea is to keep the wrists as straight as possible to keep from experiencing any numbing sensations or pain.
Another birthing position to consider includes lying with your wrists resting on two pillows beside of you, particularly in between contractions. This will allow for your forearms to rest between birthing activities.
Breastfeeding Positions for Women with CTS
Post-partum, some women continue to have symptoms related to carpal tunnel syndrome. In some cases, after giving birth, women may end up developing carpal tunnel and should seek treatment options.
While breastfeeding, mothers who experience numbing or tingling sensations should develop holding positions that make the experience enjoyable, yet comfortable.
When sitting, make sure to sit up straight in a supportive chair and place a pillow underneath the baby to support his/her body. This will give the mother much more room for movement and helps the arms support the baby, rather than actually holding the baby up. Once the baby has begun breastfeeding, support the baby’s head with the forearm rather than the hand.
Another position to consider is breastfeeding while lying down. This way, both the mother and they baby’s body are supported without the need to hold any weight in the mother’s arms. While lying flat, the mother should place a pillow behind her back and between her legs. Once comfortable, a small pillow or rolled up towel can be placed behind the baby’s back for extra support.