Pregnant women working outside the home may be more likely than their homemaker counterparts to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, Dr. Glen D. Seidman said at the joint annual meeting of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the American Society of Hand Therapists.
Previous studies have shown that carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS) during pregnancy and lactation has been shown to be associated with elevated estrogen levels, but this effect is not well established in the literature. “We wanted to know how high estrogen contributes to a woman's developing CTS,” noted Dr. Seidman of South Shore Orthopedic Associates, South Weymouth, Mass.
Screening of 1,926 pregnant women scheduled to deliver within a 6-month period showed that 230 women (12%) had CTS symptoms. The onset of symptoms commonly occurred at 24–28 weeks' gestation. At 6 weeks post partum, 36% of the affected women still had symptoms, and 34% required therapeutic intervention.
Dr. Seidman noted that 76% of those with persistent CTS symptoms post partum worked outside the home and 73% were breast-feeding. By comparison, 85% of those unaffected by CTS during the postpartum period were breast-feeding.
Contrary to previous studies suggesting an association between estrogen levels and CTS, these findings indicate that CTS in pregnancy does not have a hormonal etiology, as symptoms during the postpartum period did not correlate well with breast-feeding. Instead, there appears to be a correlation between working outside the home and CTS post partum, Dr. Seidman concluded.