Good Hand Health Tips

Carpal Tunnel Pregnancy Symptoms and Mommy’s Thumb After Delivery

I am pregnant. Could Carpal Tunnel pregnancy symptoms be why my hands hurt?

Perhaps surprisingly, nearly 60% of women experience Carpal Tunnel pregnancy symptoms. carpal_tunnel_pregnancyduring pregnancy.1 Symptoms often include tingling, pain and loss of grip strength. This article helps us to understand why pregnant mamas are at a higher risk of developing symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), and provides four simple ways to prevent or treat them. I’ll also share four quick tips for avoiding Mommy’s Thumb once baby arrives. HINT: it has to do with how the baby is lifted.

Why would my pregnancy lead to hand & wrist pain?

Pregnancy-related fluid buildup can affect the wrist.
carpal tunnel, hand anatomy
Women’s small wrists, as compared to men, create less wiggle room for the median nerve through the rigid carpal tunnel. Combine a small wrist with swelling, add pre-existing conditions like diabetes, mix forceful, repetitive hand movements, and the perfect recipe for hand pain occurs. In the same way heart disease has identifiable risk factors, so too do hand and wrist problems.
To see what your individual risk factors are, take this quick Risk Factor Assessment Quiz.

What are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel?

When the median nerve is compressed in the carpal tunnel, pain, numbness and tingling might occur in the wrist, palm, thumb and all the fingers except the little one. Pregnant or not, women are three times more likely to develop CTS. When pregnant, more women experience symptoms in the last trimester. According to one study, the prevalence in the first, second, and third trimesters were 11%, 26%, and 63% respectively.2 Fortunately symptoms typically disappear after delivery.

For more information on delivery and holistic self-care during pregnancy, visit our friends at Birth Institute.

What can I do to relieve carpal tunnel pain during pregnancy?

Practice these four things now to improve hand and wrist pain:

    1. Pace your manual work. If repetitive actions and wrist bending aggravate your symptoms, STOP! Pain is a signal. Pushing through pain or fatigue causes the more delicate structures of your arms to strain, inflame and adhere. So ask for help when tired. Delegate. Take frequent breaks from manual work. Simply resting your hands on your lap, palms up for 20 seconds, can help drain muscular tension.
    2. The same hormones opening your body to the birthing process can also cause joint laxity while pregnant.3 In my practice, I see this particularly in the thumb and finger joints. For this reason, even more rest, caution and pacing needs to be practiced while pregnant. Overusing the delicate joints of the hand while pregnant through force and fatiguing repetition can create lingering problems after delivery.
    3. Avoid vibration and force. Working with power tools or repetitively applying force, as when giving a massage for example, can directly damage nerves.
    4. Wear a wrist brace at night. Wearing a wrist brace (wrist splint) at night ranks in the top three carpal tunnel during pregnancy wear wrist brace at nightrecommendations doctors prescribe for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Think for a moment how your wrists are positioned at night. Are they in a fist, wrist curled and under your check? Keeping the wrist straight at night increases the space in the carpal tunnel and reduces the compression on the median nerve.Wearing wrist braces at night very often relieves the pain of carpal tunnel during pregnancy. Though symptoms typically resolve after delivery, a noteworthy percentage of women continue to experience symptoms up to three years after delivery. Wearing a wrist brace will continue providing relief.

We endorse the Sammons Preston Wrist Brace.

Make sure you get the right size. Adjustable fitting with Velcro attachments is best. Measure your wrist. Use a soft measuring tape and wrap it around your wrist. Or use a string to find the distance around your wrist and then measure the string. (Note: wrist_brace_Measure wristMeasure both wrists if you want braces for each. They may be different sizes.)

How can a wrist brace help me?

  • Keeps wrists safe, warm and comfortable.
  • Encourages more restful sleep by reducing pain and numbness and preventing excessive bending.
  • Reduces pressure and increases space in the carpal canal, reducing pain and inflammation.
  • Supports faster healing.

Let your health professional know about your symptoms. Generally, nonsurgical protocol is recommended. Along with pacing your activity, avoiding vibration and force, and wearing a wrist brace, doing exercise to strengthen and stretch your hand and arm muscles is recommended.

Since Carpal Tunnel pregnancy symptoms usually disappear after delivery, surgery or expensive testing is not usually recommended. Once the baby arrives, new hand and wrists challenges can arise!

Mommy’s Thumb: How to avoid it.

Mommy’s thumb, also referred to as texting thumb or De Quervain’s tendonitis affects the back of the thumb, wrist and forearm. Mommy’s thumb is an inflammation of the thumb tendons. Perhaps because of the hormonal changes of pregnancy and nursing or because no one teaches parents how to properly lift a baby, new moms can develop this.
Hooking your thumbs underneath the baby’s armpits strains the thumbs. Lifting the baby’s head with your hand in the same L shape can also be injurious. Lifting the baby from a low crib also causes the hand muscles to be overused. Gardening, racquet sports and other gripping activities can also aggravate the condition.

Four Prevention Tips to Avoid De Quervain’s Tendonitis

    • Keep your elbows close to your torso, gently squeeze the sides of the baby’s ribcage and lift him/her with your entire hand.
    • Support baby’s head by cradling both the head and bottom in the palms of your hands.
    • Remember to bring baby close to your torso with your back straight and lift from the power of your legs and hips. With your palms up and your back straight, the stronger muscles of your upper arms and shoulders are engaged.

mommys thumb

  • This image shows what not to do. Do not put extra weight on a hyperextended thumb.


  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19753825
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3544091
  3. http://www.webmd.com/baby/tc/pregnancy-carpal-tunnel-syndrome-topic-overview.g 44ssessment44
  4. Save your Hands! The Complete Guide to Injury Prevention and Ergonomics for Manual Therapists by Laurianne Greene and Richard Goggins. Gilded Age Press. 2008. Tunnel Syndrome Causes – Who’s At Risk?

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