From conception to the birth of a baby, a pregnant woman's body goes through many changes, one of which may also include edema or swelling of the feet. This can be a very uncomfortable experience for expecting mothers, however, there are a few things you can do to relieve this pregnancy symptom, one of which is wearing compression stockings. Read on to learn more about compression socks and whether they're right for you!
As your body prepares to support the growth of new life within you, it produces more blood and fluids. At the same time, your growing uterus also begins to put pressure on the veins, also known as the vena cava, which carry blood from your feet and legs to your heart. All of these factors can cause swelling and pain in the feet and legs. This swelling of the legs and feet, called edema, is very normal during pregnancy, and occurs in about 75 percent of pregnant women anywhere after 27 weeks of pregnancy. However, this symptom usually doesn't subside until your munchkin arrives, does that mean you're going to have to live with discomfort and pain!
Well, wearing compression stockings may help relieve and release pressure from your legs, ankles, and feet. These socks apply graded pressure, which means these socks put more pressure on the feet and ankles and less pressure on the legs. This helps improve blood flow by pushing blood from the legs back to the heart. You can wear these stockings for this reason, and sometimes your doctor may even recommend them for pain relief.
How Compression Stockings Can Help During Pregnancy
Here are some benefits of compression stockings during pregnancy:
1. Helps improve blood circulation
As your pregnancy progresses, your growing uterus begins to put weight on your legs, which can disrupt blood flow to your legs and feet. Also, changing pregnancy hormones may increase the chance of blood clots, which can sometimes lead to conditions such as DVT or deep vein thrombosis. Wearing compression stockings is a great way to improve circulation and avoid such health complications.
2. Helps reduce swelling
A pregnant woman's body produces more blood and fluids to support the growing fetus. Increased fluid in the body can sometimes cause swelling in the feet and legs. Using maternity socks for swollen feet is a great way to prevent swelling, especially if you're standing most of the day!
3. Helps prevent varicose veins
If you keep observing some purple or blue veins in your legs, also known as varicose veins, this could be a symptom of pregnancy. When the valves of the veins do not function properly, these veins can appear in your legs, causing this painful condition. However, wearing compression stockings may help improve circulation, which can help reduce or reduce this painful pregnancy symptom.
4. Helps relieve leg and foot pain
You may experience pain in your feet and legs as you go further through your pregnancy. This happens because of the extra weight your body is putting on and the flow of blood is blocked. However, using or wearing compression stockings can help relieve pain by improving circulation.
Which compression level is right for you
Maternity compression stockings come in varying degrees of compression because they are designed for specific purposes. The level that is best for you is best prescribed by your doctor, or sometimes your doctor may recommend it based on your health. Below are the different compression levels.
8 to 15 mmHg: This level of compression is great for sore or tired legs. The gentle level of compression provided by these socks is perfect for energizing the legs by improving blood circulation.
15 to 20 mmHg: This mild pressure level is ideal for relieving mild to moderate pain, swelling or varicose veins. This amount of compression is great for maintaining DVT while traveling, sitting for long periods of time.
20 to 30 mmHg: This is the most widely used pressure level prescribed by doctors to relieve edema, varicose veins, DVT, etc. by providing moderate pressure. This level is often referred to as Firm Compression or Level I.
30 to 40 mmHg: Often referred to as pressure class II, this class of socks is great for relieving severe varicose veins, edema, DVT, and more. This level of socks should only be worn if your doctor advises you to do so.
40 t0 50 mmHg: This stress level, also known as the Class III level, is considered the highest level of stress and is used to treat conditions such as post-thrombotic syndrome, chronic venous insufficiency, and more.
When shopping for maternity compression stockings, make sure to keep the following factors in mind:
1. Easy to wear
If you think wearing compression socks is similar to wearing regular socks, it's not. This is because these socks are tighter and you simply cannot wear them like regular socks. You may need to roll them up like pantyhose, so wearing them that way toward the end of your pregnancy can become difficult. Some brands offer easy-to-use slip-on styles, possibly with zippers, that are relatively easier to wear. So you have to keep this in mind when picking a pair for yourself.
2. Comfortable to wear
These socks are designed to provide gentle pressure and support for your feet and legs. However, if you feel that the socks are too tight, pierce your skin, leave marks on your skin, your legs are pinched, or you experience any other discomfort, you may want to switch to a lighter compression level. You can undoubtedly wear pregnancy compression socks while flying, driving, doing housework, and various other everyday tasks, but ideally you shouldn't sleep in them.
3. Buy a size that fits you
Just like your regular socks, these compression socks come in a variety of sizes. These sizes usually correspond to your regular shoe size, however, most brands have two sizes, small/medium and large/king options. Before picking a pair for yourself, you should check the size of your socks.
4. Choose the right length
These socks come in different styles, which means you can choose any length you want, from ankle length to thigh length. Generally, knee-length or thigh-length socks are more effective for women with varicose veins.
5. Choose the correct compression level
Just like size and length, these socks come in varying degrees of compression, ranging from 8 mmHg to 50 mmHg. However, doctors usually recommend higher compression levels. However, if you don't need any specific level of compression, there are also over-the-counter socks available.
How to use compression stockings when pregnant
You can put on compression stockings as soon as you wake up in the morning or start your day. This is because these socks are great for preventing swelling and pain. You can wear these socks while sitting, walking, standing or doing any other activity. Also, once your feet are swollen, you may find these socks are tight and difficult to put on, so put them on before the swelling occurs. You don't have to wear them at night because your feet and legs are at the same level as the rest of your body.
Here are some common or frequently asked questions about wearing compression stockings during pregnancy that many expecting mothers may think about.
1. Will my baby be at risk if I don't wear compression socks?
There are many benefits to wearing compression stockings during pregnancy, and if you keep all of them in mind, then you might think it's a good idea. It also means that in addition to providing more nutrients to your growing baby by improving mobility, wearing these socks may help prevent conditions such as blood clots, which can be fatal to the growing fetus. So, if you're planning on not wearing these socks, you can, but keep in mind that it may be better for you and your baby's health if you don't!
2. Is there a difference between compression stockings/stockings and maternity stockings?
You may have come across maternity stockings and it might make you wonder if they are different from compression socks! Well, there is no difference between the two, rather they are different terms used for the same product. So, whether you call it maternity socks or compression socks, it means the same thing!
3. Can I wear compression stockings to sleep during pregnancy?
If you want to doze in there, you can, as there's no downside to it, but many women may find it uncomfortable. Also, when you lie down, your legs and feet are at the same level as the rest of your body, which means there is no obstruction to blood flow and pressure on your legs. However, if wearing these socks makes you feel comfortable and relieves pain, you can wear them all day or even at night while you sleep.
You can buy compression stockings from your local pharmacy; however, it is best to consult your doctor before doing so. Your doctor will not only be able to guide you through the ideal level or length you may need. Therefore, we recommend that you consult your healthcare provider before making any such decision.