The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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The problem>carpal tunnel syndrome
The solution>arm elevation, finger stretch
Why it works>As early as the first six weeks of pregnancy, swelling in the tissues of the hand and wrist can increase, pinching the median nerve, which brings feeling to many of your fingers. The numbness, tingling and pain that follow can be relieved by elevating your hands above your heart and gently extending your fingers (shown), says Robert M. Szabo, M.D., M.P.H., a surgeon and professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine. This pumps fluid out of the swollen tissues that surround the nerve. But whatever you do, Szabo adds, don’t try to exercise your wrist by bending it to extremes, as this will only cause more pain and possibly injury. Experts also suggest wearing a loose splint at night to minimize movement, thus preventing pressure on the nerve. And, if possible, try to avoid tasks that require forceful, repetitive hand movements; such actions can aggravate your symptoms.
The problem>chest tightness
The solution>chest-opening stretch
Why it works>As pregnancy hormones cause your already enlarged breasts to increase in size, shoulders naturally roll inward to support the extra weight. Chest muscles respond by shortening and posture suffers, says Jeffreys, who suggests doing the chest-opener stretch (pictured at right) several times a day. “Think about your posture all the time,” she says. “Stretch a lot, even if you’re just sitting on the floor reading a book.” If the chest-opening exercises don’t help, consult your doctor, as chest tightness also can be a sign of a pregnancy-related heart condition.
The move>Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair. Place your hands behind your head and lace your fingers together, pulling elbows slightly back. Drop your shoulders down and pull your navel in toward your spine, keeping your head in line with your shoulders. Lean back slightly as you look up, squeezing your shoulder blades down and together until you feel a mild stretch in the chest. Repeat as needed.
The problem>back pain
The solution>cat-and-cow stretch
Why it works>Your swelling abdomen puts strain on your lower back. Stretches can relieve that pressure. A move such as the cat-and-cow stretch, in which you arch and then round your back, does double duty by stretching overworked back muscles and strengthening abdominal muscles. It brings both into better balance with each other, which is important because “the back and abs work together like a natural corset,” says Wehrman. “This stretch actually moves the baby out of the pelvis a bit, which can be a big relief—at least for a few minutes,” Jeffreys says.