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What can I do if I experience numb or tingling hands during pregnancy?

Feelings of swelling, tingling, and numbness in fingers and hands, called carpal tunnel syndrome, can occur during pregnancy. These symptoms are due to swelling of tissues in the narrow passages in your wrists, and they should disappear after delivery.

Take frequent breaks to rest hands. Ask your doctor about fitting you for a splint to keep wrists straight.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center
Rachel Rohde, MD
Orthopedic Surgery

Pregnant women commonly develop carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). The median nerve runs through your forearm, wrist, and hand and supplies sensation to the thumb, index finger, long finger, and half of the ring finger. It also is responsible for innervating most muscles that control the thumb. At the level of the wrist, it runs through the "carpal canal" or "carpal tunnel" with all nine tendons that allow you to bend your fingers. If there is swelling in this area or otherwise pressure on the nerve, you might feel numbness, tingling, or even pain in your fingers, hand, and sometimes forearm.

The most common symptoms include pain, numbness, and tingling in the thumb, index, long, and ring fingers. Night symptoms are common because we often sleep with our wrists curled (or "flexed"), which compresses the nerve more. You might feel symptoms while driving, reading a newspaper, or holding a telephone, or during gripping activities. Some people actually start dropping objects or feeling clumsy with their hands. In severe cases, you could lose sensation or control of your thumb permanently.

Wearing wrist splints at night can help relieve night symptoms. If your symptoms become severe, a hand surgeon can inject corticosteroid into your carpal tunnel to decrease inflammation around the nerve can treat symptoms. 

Surgical release of the carpal tunnel by cutting the ligament overlying the nerve and tendons in the palm of the hand enlarges the tunnel and decreases the pressure on the nerve. Soreness in the palm can last for weeks to a few months. Numbness and tingling can disappear quickly or slowly, but resolution of night symptoms usually occurs first. Strength in the hand and wrist can take a few months to return to normal. It is important to note that symptoms might not go away completely after surgery, especially in severe cases.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.