Pins and needles in pregnancy

Is tingling in your hands and feet just an annoying pregnancy problem - or a sign that something’s wrong?

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While thick, lustrous hair and a rosy glow are the upside of pregnancy, there are quite a few ‘discomforts’ on the downside, too – and one of these is pins and needles.

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Pins and needles, or its medical name paraesthesia, is a common pregnancy niggle and while it can be uncomfortable, rest assured it’s rarely a sign of anything serious.

What causes pins and needles in pregnancy?

“During pregnancy, most cases of pins and needles are a consequence of the increased fluid volume you’re carrying, which puts pressure on joints and nerves,” says Professional Advisor of Education at the Royal College of Midwives, Michelle Lyne.

The sensation can be as subtle as tingling or it can more pronounced and feel like burning usually in hands, feet, arms and legs.

“It’s also caused by the weight of a growing baby and uterus, which, as they grow, also increase the pressure on joints and nerves,” says Michelle.

I get it at night. Why? Why? WHY???

Lots of mums to be find they can’t sleep – or, as soon as they do fall asleep, they’re woken up by pins and needles. Which is really frustrating (just add that one to the endless list!). And the reason it’s worse at night is down to fluid build-up over the course of the day and weight distribution when you’re lying down, putting pressure on your back.

“Also, you’re lying still which doesn’t help your circulation. During the day, you’re moving around more, so less likely to get – or even notice – pins and needles,” says Michelle.

“I am kept awake on and off all night with pins and needles [in] hands and my wrists are really sore too.” Beebee

“I’m 25 weeks pregnant and find that if I sleep on my right side I get pins and needles in my left hip. Even if I sit in a certain way.” Jansen

Is there anything I can do to ease it?

Moving around and clenching and releasing your hands and your feet might give you some relief – and you can take a paracetamol. Oh – and avoid wearing tight clothing, especially around your ankles and wrists.

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So could pins and needles be a sign of something more serious?

“It could be mechanical, so related to poor posture, a neck or back injury. If this is the case, speak to your midwife about treatment. Options could include chiropractic treatment, acupuncture or physiotherapy,” says Michelle.

And if the pins and needles are specifically in your hand, down your thumb, first finger and little finger, then it’s likely to be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). During pregnancy, this is triggered by excess fluid and can be downright painful! “Carpal Tunnel may require acupuncture or a hand splint so again, speak to your midwife about treatment,” says Michelle.

It’s also worth knowing that pins and needles in your feet is a symptom of gestational diabetes, a temporary form of diabetes that develops in pregnancy. If you also experience extreme thirst, you need to wee a lot, get sudden blurred vision or extreme fatigue, you should see your doctor or midwife straight away.

Should I be worried?

Not usually. Although pins and needles can be annoying and even quite painful, it is very rarely anything to worry about. “But, if it is bothering you, make sure you talk to your midwife about it. She can help exclude any associated complications such as diabetes or anaemia by checking blood sugar levels,” says Michelle.

For most women, pins and needles will disappear completely as soon as or shortly after you’ve had the baby, once all your excess fluid and weight are released.

One last thing – what does pins and needles in my bump mean?

This isn’t where pins and needles are most commonly felt during pregnancy. They tend to occur in fingers, hands and legs. It could be that the sensation of your skin stretching or itching feels a bit like pins and needles. Describe the feeling to your doctor or midwife who will be able to detect what’s causing it.

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