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Mommy Thumb: Or why it hurts when you pick up baby

By Robin Aronson |

Pick me up, please!

Lower cribs, bigger babies, older moms, and moms using smart phones, these are all contributing factors to an increase in “mommy thumb,” or a sharp pain that can run down the thumb side of your hand when you lift up your baby.

The technical name for the condition is De Quervain’s tendinitis, and it’s caused by inflamed tendons between the thumb and the wrist, and while men can get it, more women do.

According to the Wall Street Journal, orthopedic surgeons estimate that between a quarter and half of new mothers experience the condition.  While this tendinitis has long been a feature of new motherhood, and it can start during pregnancy, doctors say they’re seeing more and more cases of it.  It gives carrying around the baby weight a whole new meaning!  But what can you do about it?

First, notice the way you’re picking up your child.  Try to scoop her up so the baby’s weight lands in your palm or on your forearm and try to avoid lifting her up from under her arms.

A combination of icing and anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofren can help manage the pain. If it doesn’t, see your doctor.  A splint, a cortisone shot, or some combination of the two can often provide relief, but doctors don’t recommend getting more than two steroid shots.  If the pain persists, surgery is an option.

Heavier babies contribute to the condition not only because they weigh more but they walk later.  Once kids are walking, De QUervain’s tendinitis won’t crop up.

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About Robin Aronson


Robin Aronson

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0 thoughts on “Mommy Thumb: Or why it hurts when you pick up baby

  1. AwesomeCloud's mom says:

    Yes it will.

  2. Amy says:

    And it has, now more than ever.

  3. Ellie says:

    I had severe De Quervain’s tendinitis aggravated by breastfeeding. My hand position contributed to it. It was never raised as a possible risk for people with a tendency toward repetitive strain injuries, which I have. The hospital staff and my doctors never mentioned it once.

  4. edgar mevers says:

    When I was doing full-time dad I definitely had this problem but recognized it was just because of the repetitive use of my hand in an unnatural position, with my babies laying in the crook of my left arm, essentially sitting on my thumb. Half a decade later my thumbs still bite me when I do anything like that again.

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