Tingling Hands During Pregnancy: Causes and What to Do

Tingling hands during pregnancy is quite common. However, there are measures to alleviate them. Here are the details!
Tingling Hands During Pregnancy: Causes and What to Do

Last update: 08 June, 2022

Some women may experience tingling hands during pregnancy. Although carpal tunnel syndrome can occur at any time, it’s especially frequent at this stage.

Fortunately, these symptoms are temporary and aren’t serious for the health of pregnant women, however, there are some things you should know. Are you interested? Then join us!

Carpal tunnel syndrome, the most common cause of tingling hands in pregnancy

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that occurs as a result of repetitive and forced movements with the wrists. But in the last trimester of pregnancy, it can appear for other reasons and be the cause of tingling hands.

In general, this sensation is caused by compression of the median nerve, which runs through the entire upper limb, from the base of the neck to the fingers. Its main function is to provide the brain with sensory information from the hands.

At the wrists, the median nerve passes through a narrow channel called the carpal tunnel. The “roof” of this structure is a ligament, which can become inflamed after poor posture, sustained and improper movement of the joint, or the edema typical of pregnancy.

As a result, when the canal narrows, the nerve is compressed, causing pain, numbness, tingling, or burning in the palms of the hands and fingers.

An image showing the anatomy of the hands.
The ligament that lines the carpal canal at the wrist can become inflamed for a variety of reasons. When the nerve that circulates underneath is compressed, uncomfortable sensations in the hands are awakened.

A fairly frequent condition…

Carpal tunnel syndrome tends to occur mainly in women and between 30 and 60% of cases occur in pregnant women or during the postpartum period.

Just as the fluid retention of pregnancy predisposes the ankles and feet to swell, it can also slow down the venous return of the upper limbs. This, as we said, favors the compression of the median nerve that awakens these uncomfortable sensations, especially at night.

Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Swelling of the fingers and toes
  • Tingling and numbness in the wrists, fingers, and hands
  • Throbbing sensation in the wrists, hands, and fingers
  • Difficulty grasping objects or performing fine motor tasks with the hands

In severe and prolonged cases, it can lead to reduced strength and decreased accuracy in the work of this limb. Although it can occur in only one hand, according to a study conducted by Advanced Biomedical Research, 50% of pregnant women experience it in both hands.

Another point to note is that symptoms may increase as pregnancy progresses, especially in the last trimester, as this is the time of greatest fluid retention.

You may be interested in: Reduce Fluid Retention During Pregnancy

Diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome

In most cases, the diagnosis of this condition is clinical. A thorough questioning and complete physical examination of the pregnant woman, including the Tinel’s sign maneuver, is sufficient. This consists of gently tapping (percussion) the skin located on the anterior aspect of the wrist and if the pregnant woman feels a tingling sensation, the involvement of the median nerve is corroborated.

Another alternative that can be carried out during pregnancy is electrodiagnosis, which reveals the involvement of the nerve when a blockage or slowing of the electrical signals is detected.

Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy

In most cases, it is advisable to treat this disease conservatively, especially during pregnancy. In fact, it’s worth noting that many women will experience relief from tingling hands and other symptoms in the weeks and months following delivery.

Some of the following treatments are helpful and safe to consider during pregnancy:

  • Reduce activities that require wrist flexion and avoid activities that require repetitive, forceful, manual movements of this joint. For example, typing on the keyboard.
  • Use a splint. Certain orthopedic devices help to maintain the wrist joint in a neutral position (without flexing) and thus reduce symptoms.
  • Cryotherapy. Placing ice on the painful area for 10 minutes several times a day helps reduce edema and tingling hands.
  • Elevate the wrists whenever possible, with the help of cushions.
  • Perform yoga. A study published in 2010 found that practicing yoga can increase hand grip strength and decrease wrist pain in people with carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Ensure daily breaks for adequate stretching of the hands.
A woman stretching her arm hand downward.
Stretching the wrists and hands allows for relief of median nerve compression. Therefore, it’s good to take active breaks during the workday.

Tingling hands in pregnancy are common and temporary

Tingling hands in pregnancy are often associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Although not serious, the sensation can be annoying and affect the quality of life of the pregnant woman However, this manifestation usually disappears gradually after delivery, as fluid retention and gestational edema resolve.

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  • Meems M, Truijens S, Spek V, Visser LH, Pop VJ. Prevalence, course and determinants of carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms during pregnancy: a prospective study. BJOG. 2015 Jul;122(8):1112-8. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.13360. Epub 2015 Mar 17. PMID: 25778497.
  • Khosrawi, Saeid, and Raziyeh Maghrouri. “The prevalence and severity of carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy.” Advanced biomedical research vol. 1 (2012): 43. doi:10.4103/2277-9175.100143
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