Coping With Numbness and Tingling in Pregnancy

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 buttocks toward the end of their pregnancy.

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

Young pregnant woman with numbness and tingling in low back
damircudic / Getty Images

Symptoms

Below are the most commonly reported symptoms of numbness and tingling in pregnancy:

  • An uptick in symptoms upon waking up, in the middle of the night, or when performing certain movements with your body
  • Feels like a “pins and needles,” a loss of sensation, or a radiating burning or tingling that is accompanied by pain
  • Presents toward the middle or end of pregnancy, as weight gain and fluid retention increase

Causes

You can blame hormones as well as the normal bodily changes you are experiencing for those sensations of numbness and tingling. As your pregnancy progresses, your body produces more of the hormone relaxin, which allows your ligaments to stretch during pregnancy and childbirth.

However, the extra relaxin also causes your posture and center of gravity to 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 an unusual strain on your muscles, ligaments, and nerves, which can also contribute to sensations of numbness and tingling.

As you move toward the second and third trimester of pregnancy, swelling of the hands and feet is 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 buttocks.

Hands and Fingers

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

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Pregnancy

Carpal tunnel syndrome is quite common during pregnancy, with as many as 31% to 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.

With carpal tunnel syndrome, you may experience the following symptoms:

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

Legs, Back, and Buttocks

It’s common to experience lower back pain during pregnancy, and sometimes this pain radiates down your legs and buttocks, especially if pressure is put on your nerves.

Numbness and tingling in your legs, back, and buttocks during pregnancy are usually due to:

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

All of this pressure, loosening of ligaments, excess weight, and fluid retention 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 will experience hypermobility in their joints during pregnancy as well, due to the hormone relaxin. 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 in Pregnancy

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

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

Symptoms may include:

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

Meralgia Paresthetica in Pregnancy

While sciatica is a relatively common pregnancy condition that can include numbness and tingling of the back, legs, and buttocks, 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 may include:

  • Aching and soreness in thigh that may radiate to the outer knee
  • Numbness and burning sensations are also possible
  • Sensations like a “stabbing” feeling in the thigh region
  • Symptoms that are usually confined to one leg (thought sometimes the buttocks area is involved as well)

Treatment

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

Additionally, your doctor may recommend treatment for your specific condition once diagnosed.

Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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

Treatments for Sciatica and Meralgia Paresthetica

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

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

Although most instances of numbness and tingling in pregnancy are normal, there are some more serious conditions that include numbness and tingling as symptoms. 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.

Anemia

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

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

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. 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 buttocks to the ever-growing list.

But, you can take comfort in knowing that while these symptoms may be extremely bothersome at times, they are usually nothing serious and begin to subside once your baby arrives. Although you should take every new pregnancy symptom seriously, numbness and tingling alone will rarely 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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Article Sources
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