A condition most commonly associated with those whose jobs require repetitive hand movements such as flexing and typing, carpal tunnel also afflicts a number of pregnant women. "CTS usually occurs during pregnancy due to compression on the median nerve at the wrist from increased fluid volumes," says Dr. Gia Fruscione, Doctor of Physical Therapy and founder of DLVR Maternity. The condition can cause numbness, tingling and pain in the thumb, index and middle fingers.
Alleviate the pain by stabilizing the wrist with a brace to keep the carpal tunnel in a wide position. Practicing yoga designed for pregnant women can also help relieve the symptoms. Consult your doctor before taking any pain medications or before beginning an exercise regimen. "The good news," says Dr. Fruscione, "is the symptoms almost always resolve after delivery, once fluid volumes decrease."
Restless legs syndrome
Restless legs syndrome, the constant urge to move one's legs, can afflict anyone but also affects nearly 16 percent of pregnant women. For women who already suffer from RLS, the symptoms can become even worse during pregnancy. It is unclear what causes previously unaffected women to develop RLS in pregnancy; however, some theories point to iron and folate deficiencies, hormonal changes and circulatory changes.
Most medications for RLS are not safe for pregnant women, so consult your healthcare provider if you are suffering from the condition. Caffeine and antihistamines can actually make symptoms worse, as can lying down for prolonged periods of time. Staying well hydrated may help alleviate discomfort.
Sciatica is most often caused by damage to a disc, which leads to swelling around the sciatic nerve. Sciatica sufferers experience shooting pains, often on just one side, in the lower back, the back of the thigh and down the back of the leg to the foot.
Many who claim to suffer from sciatica in pregnancy may actually be suffering from pelvic girdle pain (PGP), as sciatica is not usually caused by a baby putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. Much like sciatica, PGP is also often on one side and can cause shooting pains down the backs of the legs, and it can occur anytime during pregnancy. To determine which you are experiencing, see a physiotherapist to examine your back, hips, tummy and pelvis. A physiotherapist may treat symptoms with stretching and stability exercises for the lower back, abdomen, hip and pelvis.
Even though sciatica and PGP symptoms usually resolve after delivery, once the belly is no longer pulling your weight forward, Dr. Fruscione advises seeking the advice of a physical therapist postpartum to help with redeveloping abdominal, lower back, hip and pelvic floor muscle function. "Even though the pain may be gone," she says, "the compensations and changes from pregnancy can leave you with muscles that are not functioning to their fullest ability and may lead to issues down the road."
Bell's palsy is a form of facial paralysis, characterized by drooping on the affected side due to a malfunction of the facial nerve that controls the muscles of the face. According to Dr. Fruscione, the condition tends to occur more frequently in women while pregnant as opposed to women who are not. The onset is usually rapid and during the third trimester, often within weeks of delivery. While it is unclear why pregnant women are likely to develop Bell's palsy, some theories point to reactivation of a dormant virus, herpes simplex I, while others show that an increase in fluid volume causes swelling and compression in the facial nerve.
If evaluation by a medical professional reveals a diagnosis of Bell's palsy, steroids may be used to treat the inflammation, as well as exercises for improving and maintaining muscle tone in the face. Additional treatments may also include neuromuscular stimulation to aid in muscle activation, to be performed by a trained physical therapist. Pregnant women who develop Bell's palsy usually show full recovery within a few months of the diagnosis, and in some cases, only a few weeks.