Coping With Numbness and Tingling in Pregnancy

Numbness and Tingling in Pregnancy

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As if being pregnant wasn’t exhausting and overwhelming enough, sometimes moms-to-be experience some pretty unexpected symptoms, especially in the last few months. Take numbness and tingling, for example. Some pregnant women will experience “pins and needles” or numbing feelings in their hands, fingers, legs, back, or rear 

Not only can these symptoms become irritating and sometimes very uncomfortable, but they may leave you asking, “What exactly is going on here?”

Luckily, most instances of numbness and tingling in pregnancy are nothing to be alarmed about. While they can cause discomfort, they are very common, and most women will experience these symptoms at one time or another during pregnancy.

Symptoms of Numbness and Tingling in Pregnancy

  • You may experience the numbness and tingling as a “pins and needles” feeling, a loss of sensation, or a radiating burning or tingling that is accompanied by pain.
  • You may notice an uptick in your symptoms upon waking up, in the middle of the night, or while you perform certain movements with your body.
  • For most women, these symptoms begin to present themselves toward the middle or end of pregnancy, as weight gain and fluid retention increase.

What Causes Numbness and Tingling In Pregnancy?

You can blame hormones as well as the bodily changes you are experiencing for those sensations of numbness and tingling.

As the hormone relaxin— which allows your ligaments to stretch during pregnancy and childbirth— increases, your posture, and center of gravity may shift. As a result, your nerves may become pinched, causing shooting pain and tingling down your legs, thighs, back, and buttocks.

Similarly, as your uterus grows heavier and fuller, it puts unusual strain on your muscles, ligaments, and nerves, which also contributes to sensations of numbness and tingling.

As you move toward the second and third trimester of pregnancy, swelling of the hands and feet are common due to water retention. This swelling can contribute to feelings of numbness and tingling in your extremities and can also put pressure on nerves in your wrists, back, legs, thighs and rear.

Numbness and Tingling In Hands and Fingers

It is not unusual to experience numbness and tingling sensations in your hands and fingers, especially as your pregnancy progresses and swelling from fluid retention increases. For some women, this excess fluid puts pressure on the median nerve in the wrist, causing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is actually quite common during pregnancy, with as many as 31-62% of pregnant women being diagnosed. Causes of carpal tunnel syndrome in pregnancy include fluid retention, increased weight gain, and hormonal fluctuations.

Most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome occur during the last few months of pregnancy, but if you experienced carpal tunnel syndrome in previous pregnancies or experienced it outside of pregnancy, your symptoms may present earlier. You may experience symptoms in one or both hands, but symptoms are usually stronger in your dominant hand.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Pregnancy

  • Numbness in your fingers, especially the thumb, index, and middle fingers
  • “Pins and needles” in the fingers and hands
  • Difficulty grasping objects
  • Burning sensations in hand, wrist, and arm
  • Swelling in hand and fingers
  • Pain in hand, wrist, and fingers
  • You may also cause radiating pain in your shoulders, neck and arm

Numbness and Tingling In Legs, Back, and Rear

It’s common to experience lower back pain during pregnancy, and sometimes this pain radiates down your legs and rear, especially if pressure is put on your nerves. Numbness and tingling in your legs, back, and rear during pregnancy are usually due to:

  • Weight gain
  • Pressure from your growing uterus and compressed organs
  • Hormones such as relaxin that cause your ligaments to loosen
  • Fluid retention

All of this pressure, loosening, excess weight, and fluid can do a real number on your body! Your muscles may become weak or strained, and your posture may change. If you find yourself leaning forward or backward more often, your back muscles have to work harder, which can lead to soreness and pain. You are also more vulnerable to exercise-related back injuries when you are pregnant.

Many women find that their joints become “hyper-mobile” during pregnancy as well. This is due to the hormone relaxin, which prepares your ligaments for expansion during childbirth. The problem is that all of this opening up and mobility can cause instability in your body, and lead to shooting pain, tenderness, numbness, and tingling in your lower back or legs.

Sciatica

Probably the most common cause of tingling and numbness in the back, legs, and rear during pregnancy is sciatica, with is caused by a pinched sciatic nerve.

Excess fluid and weight gain may put pressure on the spine and sciatic nerve, and the “dropping” of your baby’s head in preparation for labor may put direct pressure on your sciatic nerve as well.

The condition usually develops in the third trimester of pregnancy and is usually mild, but can be quite debilitating for some women.

Symptoms of Sciatica in Pregnancy

  • Pain, burning, and aching
  • Tingling sensations, numbness, and muscle weakness
  • Sensations are usually felt on one side of the body, but sometimes affects both sides
  • Symptoms usually manifest in the lower back, hips, buttocks, and down your leg

Meralgia Paresthetica

While sciatica is the most common pregnancy condition that includes numbness and tingling of the back, legs, and rear, a condition called meralgia paresthetica may develop as well. Meralgia paresthetica results from pressure on the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve (LFCN), which is a nerve on the front and side of your thigh.

Symptoms of Meralgia Paresthetica in Pregnancy

  • Aching and soreness in thigh; may radiate to outer knee
  • Numbness, burning sensations are also possible
  • Some describe the sensations as a “stabbing” feeling in the thigh region
  • Symptoms are usually confined to one leg
  • Sometimes the buttock area is involved

Treatment

General numbness and tingling of the hands, fingers, back, legs, and rear during pregnancy can be treated by gentle massage, marking sure to vary your sleep positions (using a pregnancy body pillow helps a lot), soothing baths, and stretching your muscles out.

Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Use of a wrist brace or splint to keep your wrist in a neutral position
  • Application of ice packs to reduce swelling
  • Pregnancy-friendly pain medicine
  • Elevating your hands and wrists

Treatments For Sciatica and Meralgia Paresthetica

  • Heating pads
  • Warm showers or baths
  • Massage therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Pregnancy-friendly pain medicine
  • Sleep on the side of your body that is not affected

When to See Your Doctor

Most cases of numbing and tingling in pregnancy are normal and common. However, any new symptoms should be discussed with your healthcare provider. If you experience other symptoms along with the numbness and tingling such as vaginal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, contractions, severe headaches, blurry vision, or severe swelling, you should call your healthcare provider right away.

In most cases, numbing and tingling in pregnancy is caused by weight gain, fluid retention, and hormones. In some cases, a pinched nerve may be involved — as in the case of pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, and meralgia paresthetica. In these cases, at-home treatments, physical therapy, or doctor-approved pain medication are all that is required for relief.

Other Pregnancy-Related Conditions Causing Numbness and Tingling

Although most instances of numbness and tingling in pregnancy are normal, there are some more serious conditions which include numbness and tingling as a symptom. If you suspect any of the following conditions, you should discuss them promptly with your healthcare provider, as they can lead to dangerous complications during pregnancy.

  • Iron-deficiency anemia during pregnancy can cause “restless leg syndrome,” which may be accompanied by tingling, or a “creepy crawly” feeling in the legs.
  • B12 deficiency during pregnancy can cause nerve damage, which can lead to numbness and tingling in the hands, as well as general muscle weakness, trouble walking, memory loss, and mental health concerns.
  • Pre-eclampsia is a serious pregnancy condition that can cause severe swelling, and might be a potential cause of numbness and tingling in pregnancy. If your tingling and numbing sensations are accompanied by vision disturbances, severe headaches, reduced urine output, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, or seizures, call your doctor right away.
  • Gestational diabetes sometimes causes symptoms of tingling and numbing in your hands and feet. If you have already been diagnosed with the condition, these symptoms may be a sign that your gestational diabetes isn’t being managed properly. Talk to your healthcare provider about tingling and numbing, or any other new symptoms that may be relevant to your gestational diabetes diagnosis and management.

    A Word from Verywell

    Pregnancy is full of surprises isn’t it? Most of us probably don't realize just how many unusual symptoms pregnancy may cause, but now you can add numbness and tingling in the fingers, hands, legs, back, and rear to the ever-growing list. You can take comfort knowing that although these symptoms may be extremely bothersome at times, they almost always disappear soon after your baby arrives. Although you should take every new pregnancy symptom seriously, it is rare that numbness and tingling alone indicate a more serious condition.

    So here’s to getting through the next few months with as much comfort and peace of mind as possible. You’ve got this.

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