Women are three times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than men, possibly because women have a smaller carpal tunnel, making it more susceptible to entrapment. Pregnancy also puts a woman at increased risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
A combination of the extra fluid carried around during pregnancy and the hormone relaxin can lead to fluid retention and compress the median nerve in the hand.
Relaxin is produced to soften ligaments. This allows the pelvic bones to move during childbirth. Without this hormone, vaginal childbirth would be impossible as there would not be enough ‘give’ in the muscles and bones to allow the baby to come through the pelvis. Unfortunately, it also means that pregnant women are liable to get back aches and swollen feet and hands, which can trigger carpal tunnel syndrome. It is also easier to sprain muscles during this time.
The condition is most common during the latter stages of pregnancy as women retain more fluid.
Symptoms of the syndrome include numbness in the hand and wrist, pins and needles, weakness of the fingers, pain up the arm and in severe cases, lack of sensation of hot or cold.
Treatment can be difficult, as the anti-inflammatory medications, steroids and diuretics are not normally suitable to use in pregnancy. If the pain is affecting your daily life, you may be given a hand splint to ease the pain.
Vitamin B6 has been shown to reduce the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. If taken from the first trimester, it can also reduce or stop morning sickness, so you may want to consider taking this supplement.
Altering your diet slightly can stop excess fluid building up. Foods known to reduce water, include:
Tea and coffee are also diuretics (they dehydrate), so you could try drinking those. However, don’t try it in the first trimester because too much caffeine can cause a miscarriage. Also be wary if you suffer from high blood pressure, particularly with fresh, percolated coffee which can raise blood pressure.