Wincing with pain every time you have to hold your baby creates an overwhelming amount of stress in a new parent’s life. Having a little one should be the most amazing feeling in the world, but you begin to wonder if you truly have the strength to keep your baby safe in your hands.
As a parent, you want to give your baby all the affection and love she needs, and you don’t think that doing something so simple, like picking her up, is going to create agonizing pain.
I have had shooting pains and overall aching sensations in my hands for a long time. While I didn’t get a diagnosis of Carpel tunnel syndrome until after my first and only daughter was born, the diagnosis didn’t surprise me. I mean, I suspected I was prone to get it as, like many of us, I use my hands, wrists and fingers constantly.
For several years, I gripped the driver’s wheel at least 1.5 hours per day on my commute to work. As a graphic designer, I would then type or click a mouse throughout a 10-hour shift. (MayoClinic.org suggests that little scientific information actually exists linking extensive computer use to Carpel tunnel though it may contribute to some type of general hand pain). Anyway, there were online bills to pay and e-mails to respond to at home, too, as well as dish washing and other physical work, so my fingers, hands and wrists never seemed to get a break.
However, at 28 years old, during pregnancy and especially within the first few weeks of my daughter’s life, I began to get such sharp pains in my wrists that I wanted to burst out crying.
At my six-week post part-um check up, I told my doctor about the increased difficulty I had when lifting my daughter, gripping things with my fingers, and sharp pains in my wrists. The doctor listened as I told her I was practically dropping items, because I just couldn’t hold them. After a few simple tests where she had me hold my wrists up together, link my fingers and push the backs of my hands together; and then she asked me to push my fingers against her own hands; she suggested my Carpal tunnel syndrome was really brought on by being a new mom. After some time, she suspected the pain would subside.
In an article about Carpal tunnel risk factors on their official website, Mayo Clinic staff explain that, “Fluid retention – common during pregnancy, for example – may increase the pressure within your carpal tunnel, irritating the median nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome associated with pregnancy generally resolves on its own after the pregnancy is over.”
Unfortunately, the symptoms didn’t subside until about 18 months later. There are some other factors that I’m sure have certainly helped. Since I stay at home with baby now, I don’t have to have my hands on the driving wheel much. I also try to limit my time on the computer, walking away from time to time to ward off the prospect of getting hand pain (whether its technically carpel tunnel pain or what have you).
A few months after my diagnosis, I researched Tartrazine, or Yellow No. 5, for a health-related article I was writing: “Mama Always Said, ‘Don’t Eat Coal Tar'”. I found that the scientific communities in other countries suggest that the dye can be linked to Carpel tunnel syndrome symptoms. So, I stayed far away from the beauty products, candies and foods that used the dye. I personally found that I had fewer aches in my hands though my changing body fluid levels may have also led significantly to my relief. Anyway, steering clear of Tartrazine may be worth a try for you, too.
Luckily, my carpal tunnel symptoms have disappeared, most likely resolved now that my pregnancy is long over. Other sufferers with mild to moderate pain may find support with wrist splinting, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (to dull pain in the short-term) or corticosteroids to relieve pain. More prolonged and severe cases may prompt surgery which still may leave you with pain. Be sure to explain to your doctor how long you’ve had pain and what seems to trigger it. Hopefully, your symptoms will clear up over time as well!