Why should you wear compression stockings during pregnancy? there are many reasons! Pregnancy compression stockings can help reduce foot and ankle discomfort, support your cardiovascular system by promoting good blood flow, and they can help you stay more comfortable when standing for long periods of time. Every expecting mother should have at least one pair of pregnancy compression stockings.
Painful feet, swollen ankles, and even varicose veins are common discomforts that many pregnant women experience. In most cases, swelling or edema begins in the third trimester, gets worse over time, and disappears completely after the baby is born. Any sudden or severe swelling should be reported to your healthcare provider. Pregnancy compression stockings can help relieve pain even if your swelling is within the normal range.
Your lower extremities are subject to the extra workload of your growing baby, which can lead to poor circulation in your legs and feet. Wearing compression stockings during pregnancy can help reduce the diameter of the blood vessels in the legs, thereby improving their ability to push blood back to the heart. With this improved blood flow, swelling and discomfort are reduced, and the risk of developing blood clots can also be reduced. This also helps prevent varicose veins from developing and supports any varicose veins you already have. If you are experiencing foot pain, swelling, varicose veins, or are at high risk for DVT, your caregiver may recommend compression stockings.
If you're planning a hike, cooking all day, or your job requires you to stand all day, a pair of compression stockings could very well be your new best friend! Wearing these socks will provide external support to keep swelling to a minimum and reduce discomfort associated with prolonged standing. They also help pregnant women stay active and healthy by reducing some of the fatigue and leg pain associated with edema. It's easier to maintain your daily activities when you're not battling swelling in your calves, ankles, and feet.
Understanding Foot Swelling and Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
Up to 80% of pregnant women experience swelling of the feet (also called edema) in the third trimester. Blood normally flows from your heart, through your veins, and to your feet. The blood then flows back from your feet, through your veins, and back to your heart in a one-way flow system. As your baby grows, your blood volume increases, your blood vessels dilate, and the pressure on your pelvic veins from your uterus increases. All of this makes this reflow more difficult.
To compensate, the blood vessels in your legs lighten their return load by pushing some fluid into the extracellular space. This is what causes the swelling. Normal pregnancy swelling builds up over the course of the day and then starts to get better when you put your feet up or go to bed at night. It's easier for your body to maintain good blood circulation without fighting against gravity.
Due to these circulatory changes, varicose or spider veins may also appear on the legs, ankles, and feet during pregnancy. Varicose veins are enlarged and swollen veins that are hypercongested. They are often painful or burn, are often uncomfortable, and can increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Deep vein thrombosis can be a life-threatening condition caused by poor circulation when blood collects in blood vessels and forms blood clots.
When to Wear Compression Socks During Pregnancy
If you don't usually have problems with swelling or varicose veins, you may only want to wear compression stockings if you know you'll be standing regularly, planning to walk/hike, or exercise. Carrying compression stockings with you when traveling is great, as it can be difficult to get around and stay active while flying or driving. Once you get home and brace your feet, you can take off your compression stockings and enjoy the rest of the night. Remember to put them back on in the morning - your feet will thank you!
If you do struggle with daily swelling during pregnancy and want to wear compression socks, I recommend putting them on before you get up in the morning. Swelling in your feet and legs is usually minimal when you first wake up, because a horizontal sleeping position prevents gravity from blocking the return of blood from your lower extremities. Compression stockings are more likely to prevent swelling of the feet and legs in the first place than they will go away once they build up.
When choosing pregnancy compression socks, you need to consider their fit, the level and type of compression they provide, their cost, and how they look!
Fit: As with any maternity compression garment, gradient compression stockings should be firm but not too tight. They shouldn't tingle or numb your toes, but they should provide significant support for your legs. They also shouldn't be painful or difficult to pull. The dangers of compression stockings that are too tight include reduced circulation, pain, and damage to the blood vessels in the lower legs. Be sure to refer to the size guide for the compression socks you want to receive. Proper fit is essential to provide proper support to prevent swelling and improve circulation. If your socks are too loose, they won't provide enough pressure.
Compression level: There are different levels of compression available, from light to hard. Gradient compression socks provide the tightest fit at the foot and ankle, tapering off at the calf. Many pregnant women prefer medium to firm compressions for maximum benefit and comfort.
Cost: Compression stockings vary widely in price, but most are around $30. Unlike traditional pantyhose or socks, some pregnancy compression stockings may be eligible for coverage through health insurance.
The look: Compression socks are available in a variety of styles—everything from neutral solid colors to bold patterns. With all the options available, you're sure to find something that fits your wardrobe.