Carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy

Carpal tunnel syndrome is very common during pregnancy. It’s probably caused by all of the swelling and fluid shifts that the mother goes through. Extra fluid collects throughout the body, including inside the carpal tunnel. This compresses the median nerve about the wrist, leading to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Night splints can be tried to prevent the wrist from flexing down during sleep. However, these are often ineffective. We don’t perform elective surgery on pregant women, so there are usually no carpal tunnel releases performed on women during pregancy. Fortunately, a single steroid injection usually provides significant relief by decreasing the severity of symptoms for the remainder of the pregnancy. Steroid use is widely believed to be safe during pregnancy. And it’s very effective. I’ve injected many pregnant women for carpal tunnel syndrome, including pregnant pediatricians and pregnant OB/GYNs (obstetrician-gynecologists).

The carpal tunnel syndrome resolves in approximately 50% of cases upon child birth, and no further treatment is needed. For the other 50%, an endoscopic carpal tunnel release can be performed as soon as the new mother is no longer breast feeding. This usually provides a permanent solution to the problem.