Just when you thought you couldn't get any clumsier, you may experience a numbness or tingling sensation in your hands, especially in your thumb and first three fingers. It might become painful to type or close your hand around your water bottle, or you may feel pain that radiates from your wrist to your neck and shoulder.
These are hallmark symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, another side effect of your increased swelling. Typically affecting people whose jobs demand repetitive motions such as typing on a computer keyboard, carpal tunnel syndrome is named for the carpal tunnel in the wrist, a hollow region that houses nerves and ligaments leading to your hand. When the tissue swells in this tunnel, it can press on the nerves and cause numbness, pins-and-needles tingling, or burning sensations.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be especially aggravating at night, when fluid has pooled in your extremities. Sleep with your hands propped up on a pillow to encourage fluid to drain to other regions of your body. If you work on a keyboard or do other repetitive motions on the job, examine your environment to see what you can do to rest your hands more. Take more breaks or alter your position to avoid putting pressure on the nerves in your wrist. For instance, lower your computer keyboard so that you type with your wrists angled downward. You can also wear a plastic splint (available in pharmacies) to stabilize your wrists and keep them straight. Shake your hands vigorously from time to time to dispel the tingling.
About 25 percent of women get carpal tunnel syndrome while pregnant. Although the condition can be painful, the good news is that, in all but 2 percent of cases, it goes away on its own after you've delivered your baby. (It might take a few weeks longer if you're nursing because hormone and fluid levels will fluctuate then too.) However, if you find that it's seriously impairing your job performance, sleep, or overall comfort, ask your practitioner about treatments and physical therapy.