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Listener Question: What's the Numbness I Feel in My Hands During Pregnancy?

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Listener Question: What's the Numbness I Feel in My Hands During Pregnancy?

Jun 07, 2017

If you're pregnant and feel numbness in your hands, should you be worried? Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Nikolas Kazmers says limb or joint numbness could be a health concern if you're pregnant. Learn what might be causing the numbness

Episode Transcript

Announcer: Need reliable health and wellness information? Don't listen to the guy in the cube next to you, get it from a trusted source, straight from the doctor's mouth. Here's this week's Listener Question, on The Scope.

Interviewer: All right, today's listener question is from a woman. She says she is pregnant, and recently, when she sleeps, her hands become numb, like she'll wake up and her hands are numb, and she wants to know what that could possibly be. Nikolas Kazmers is an orthopedic surgeon in the Department of Orthopedics at University of Utah Health Care. Let's help her out. I mean, is this one thing, or could it be multiple things?

Dr. Kazmers: Well, it certainly could be multiple things. From the standpoint of a hand surgeon, we always think of what we call a pinched nerve, either at the wrist or the elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome being a pinched nerve at the wrist, or cubital tunnel, a pinched nerve at the elbow. During pregnancy, it's a little more common to get carpal tunnel at the wrist, and that can definitely cause some numbness in the thumb-sided fingers.

Interviewer: Okay, so like, just because she's pregnant, she might notice symptoms that she didn't notice. Is it, actually, carpal tunnel's developed, or something's changed physically?

Dr. Kazmers: Well, during pregnancy, there's obviously a lot of changes to the body, and one of them would include shifts of some of the fluid, including at the wrist, so that can provide a little bit of extra pressure around the nerve. And it can make somebody who previously did not have any sort of symptoms, namely numbness, tingling, the hand falling asleep, they didn't have those symptoms before, it can provide them enough irritation to that nerve where they do notice these types of problems.

Interviewer: All right. So, for this particular individual, what would you recommend that she do? Should she see somebody, or will it go away when she's no longer pregnant?

Dr. Kazmers: Well, if there are any concerns, it never is harmful to come in and be evaluated to just ensure that the diagnosis is correct, but usually, in these cases, when we do confirm this diagnosis in a pregnant patient, we would recommend splinting at night. It's kind of an off-the-shelf brace with a firm metal or plastic insert that goes across the wrist. That's typically where we start with these symptoms. Certainly in a pregnant patient, where things like steroid injections or surgery, we would tend to avoid those.

Interviewer: Gotcha. So is numbness normal? I mean, is that something that one should pay attention to, or maybe not such a big deal?

Dr. Kazmers: Numbness, typically, is not normal. Especially if it lasts a long time, isn't going away, or if it's something waking you up at night, that certainly is not normal, and it could be carpal tunnel, or a kind of hand or wrist problem, or it could be a medical problem, as well. It never is harmful to have that evaluated so we can initiate some appropriate treatment or look into it further if we need to.

Interviewer: So it sounds like it could be numerous different things, probably best to have a professional take a look at it to figure out what it is, specifically, and get some relief.

Dr. Kazmers: Yeah, if the patient has any doubts, we'd always encourage them to come in. We're happy to see them and evaluate the source of these types of problems and get them feeling better.

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