Many mums know all too well the perils of pregnancy – the morning sickness, mastitis, swollen ankles, cracked nipples, labour pain… Child birth can be a right pain in the neck (or uterus)!

What isn’t as widely reported is the crushing pain that many pregnant women experience in their… hands.

While swelling in the feet and legs is a well-documented bugbear of mums-to-be, swelling in the hands and wrists isn’t as widely recognized during pregnancy – despite causing the often-debilitating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).

Yet CTS is actually extremely common during pregnancy, affecting up to 62% of pregnant women (compared with 4% of the general population). It is the single most commonly diagnosed hand condition during pregnancy and accounts for up to 90% of all nerve entrapments during pregnancy.

Swelling and fluid retention during pregnancy is caused by hormonal changes in the body. It can be complicated further by gestational diabetes, which promotes fluid retention (oedema) throughout the body, due to increased blood-sugar levels. This swelling ‘squeezes’ the median nerve as it travels through a tight anatomical compartment in front of the wrist, which runs from the neck, down the arm and through the carpal tunnel at the wrist, to the hand and fingers.

This nerve compression can cause numbness, tingling, throbbing, burning, swelling and/or pins and needles in the hands, fingers and/or wrists (often worsening at night); as well as difficulty gripping objects and performing fine-motor tasks (e.g. preparing a baby’s bottle). One or both hands may be affected, although the dominant hand is usually worst affected.

Increased risk factors for pregnancy CTS include being overweight; having a family history of CTS; previous back, neck or shoulder injuries (e.g. whiplash); having gestational diabetes or hypertension; and having had previous pregnancies, which then causes the hormone, relaxin (which helps the pelvis/cervix to expand in preparation for childbirth) to be released in higher amounts throughout the body, thus promoting inflammation in the carpal tunnel.

CTS symptoms may worsen as the pregnancy progresses and are often at their most severe during the third trimester (however, in some cases, symptoms may not develop at all until after the baby is born).

Although many women experience relief within weeks or months of giving birth (when their hormone and body fluid levels return to normal), severe symptoms can linger for as long as one year after delivery. This can make it difficult to manage daily tasks such as picking up the baby, supporting the baby’s head during breast-feeding and changing nappies – all of which are likely to further exacerbate the CTS, which can be quite disabling, not to mention disheartening, for new mums.

The good news is that CTS is both an easily diagnosable and treatable condition – with the right testing and advice.

Nerve conduction studies (NCS) are the “gold standard” in diagnostic testing for pregnancy CTS, as they provide accurate, objective analysis of the median nerve’s function across the carpal tunnel. Electromyography (EMG) studies can be used in conjunction with NCS, where thin needles and electrodes are used to record and analyse signals the nerves send and receive, and to show where damage to the nerves has slowed down or blocked the normal electrical signals. NCS and EMG testing is considered safe during pregnancy; however, you should always consult your GP or Specialist.

Corbett Neurophysiology Services (CNS) has been servicing local mums for more than twenty-five years, providing bulk-billed, premium quality NCS and EMG testing. We currently offer short waiting times, so there is no need to prolong your suffering. Your results will be explained to you clearly and immediately by our highly experienced Neurologists and a comprehensive report will be sent to your Referring Doctor within 24 hours, so you can commence treatment immediately.

CNS is the only large private bulk-billing neurophysiology diagnostic service in QLD and Northern NSW. Our clinics are conveniently located in Brisbane CBD, Ipswich and the Gold Coast.

We use Australia’s only Cadwell NCS & EMG state-of-the-art beta software, to ensure the upmost accuracy of all results. Our team is highly qualified, experienced and caring (our Neurologist in Brisbane and Ipswich is also a mum), so you can rest assured that you’re receiving the best possible advice and treatment recommendations.

For more information visit www.corbett.com.au or phone 07 5503 2499. Ask your GP for a referral today.