Compression Hose for an Easier Pregnancy
Pregnancy can make you feel beautiful in surprising ways. By your second trimester, your face is rosy, dewy, and luminous. Your hair may be thicker, with exquisite shine. Your fingernails may get stronger and longer, without the help of nutritional supplements or manicures.
If only your legs were as lovely, right? Most of the time, they’re swollen, achy, heavy, and tired. With all the puffiness, you’ve lost sight of your ankles.
However, one addition to your wardrobe can bring instant and long-term relief — pregnancy compression socks. They’ll also improve your health and that of your developing child. Here’s how support hose will empower you to feel better while expecting.
1. Ease fluid retention.
During pregnancy, several factors contribute to swelling, also called “edema.” First, your body produces twice as much fluid and blood, by which to deliver the nutrients and oxygen your baby needs. 1/ Unfortunately, new veins don’t form to handle the extra volume and the work of returning blood to your heart.
Meanwhile, as your uterus expands, it encroaches on your pelvic veins, further hindering blood flow. Likewise, it infringes on the inferior vena cava, the major vein returning blood from the abdomen and legs to the heart. Adding to this hardship is the downward pull of gravity. With all these challenges to a fixed number of veins, you can understand why fluid builds in your lower legs.
Enter compression stockings, to the rescue! Lightweight and stretchy, they gently hug your ankles, tapering the fit through your calves. The difference in pressure overrides gravity, pushing fluid from your extremities and up toward your heart.
Typically, swelling worsens toward evening and during the summer months. It also gains momentum after the third trimester. However, it’s best to start wearing compression hose early in your pregnancy, before edema gets a foothold.
Warning – Call your doctor immediately if swelling suddenly surges in your legs, hands, and face. This may signal preeclampsia, requiring urgent medical care. Other common symptoms are right-sided abdominal pain, intense headaches, blurry vision, and vomiting. However, if your urine and blood pressure are normal, there’s no cause for alarm.
2. Stave off varicose veins.
If this term is unfamiliar, varicose veins are enlarged blood vessels, seen as bluish or purple ridges, protruding from the legs. Depending on their severity, they can resemble ropes, cords, or lumps. Spider veins are a milder form of varicosity, appearing threadlike.
Pregnancy raises the chances of developing both aberrations, due to a higher level of progesterone hormone. Hereditary also plays a role.
Your veins are designed with flap-like valves, keeping blood from flowing backward. However, progesterone relaxes the vein walls, causing the vessels to widen. As a result, blood accumulates behind their valves. To clear the logjam, the veins work harder, evidenced by bulging and twisting. Distended veins also trigger leg cramping, burning, throbbing, aching, and itching.
Thankfully, compression socks help to avert varicose veins. This was the finding of 2018 research published in Venous News. The clinical trial involved 146 pregnant women, averaging 25 years of age with normal veins at study onset.
Two-thirds of the women wore compression hose daily until giving birth. A control group didn’t wear them. Among the women receiving compression therapy, the chances of acquiring varicose veins were reduced by 50 to 75 percent. 2/ This is because support stockings ease vein workload by boosting circulation.
If pregnancy is your first brush with varicose veins, they’ll likely diminish after childbirth. Resolution can take three months to a year. 3/ If varicose veins predated your pregnancy, wearing the hose will soften their symptoms.
3. Lower dangerous clot risk.
Slow-moving blood tends to thicken, forming clots along vein walls. The danger with a leg clot is that it can detach, enter the bloodstream, and obstruct an artery to the heart or lungs. Without timely treatment, the organs can fail from lack of blood and oxygen. In medical terms, such a clot is called a deep vein thrombosis or “DVT.”
Leg clots can form in anyone with sluggish blood, whether due to a medical condition or inactivity, such as prolonged sitting or bed rest. Pregnancy raises DVT risk since the hormone estrogen thickens blood, making it more prone to coagulating.
Also contributory is uterine pressure against pelvic veins, reducing blood velocity. Some women are predisposed to DVT, such as by having a family history, diabetes, clotting disorder, or a previous C-section. Note that clots can arise during pregnancy, childbirth, and the three months after delivery.
Signs of a DVT include:
- leg swelling, typically on one side
- cramping, arising from the calf and spreading
- a red skin area, warm to the touch
By wearing maternity support hose daily, you’ll markedly lower DVT risk. For further protection, avoid being sedentary. For instance, after sitting for two hours, take a break to stretch and walk around. When circumstances preclude this, periodically flex your feet, alternating sides.
Furthermore, if you’re medically predisposed to DVT, speak with your doctor about receiving the blood thinner warfarin. Typically, this is an injectable form that’s safe throughout pregnancy and after delivery. If you plan on breastfeeding, don’t worry. The medication won’t enter your breast milk.
4. Sidestep leg fatigue.
In part, leg heaviness stems from progesterone. Since the hormone dilates vein walls, your legs feel the impact of slower circulation. Prolonged standing and sitting further compromise blood flow. The extra baby weight also challenges the muscle endurance of your limbs.
Fortunately, pregnancy compression socks quicken blood supply, energizing your legs. Plus, their specialized weave applies subtle massage to your leg muscles, nudging them to contract. This effect is the fruit of gradient tension in the stockings, greatest at your ankles and decreasing upward.
Compression stockings come in specific pressure levels, based on how tightly they’re knit. Their force is rated in millimeters of mercury, abbreviated mmHg. Of the four pressure grades available, the one commonly used during pregnancy is 20-30 mmHg. This strength is both comfy and superb for managing leg swelling, heaviness, aching, varicose veins, and clot risk.
Fabric coverage also varies, available as knee-highs, thigh-highs, pantyhose, and compression sleeves, made without feet. Knee high hosiery is the easiest to apply, especially when a baby bump makes forward bending difficult.
At that point, you can use appliances that streamline sock handling. One product ideal for expectant moms is the Sigvaris Doff N’ Donner.
Here’s a video demonstration of this back-saving gadget.
5. Look classy.
Do you associate compression hose with stodgy, beige-colored tights, the kind doctors prescribe after surgery? That style is history! Now, compression socks for pregnancy are cute and colorful, in designs that will make you smile.
Pregnancy can relegate you to the plus size departments of clothing stores. However, compression garments are widely available in extended sizes. For knee-highs, you must know the circumference of your calves and ankles, measured by someone on your behalf.
Schedule your fitting in the early morning, when swelling is least. For accurate sizing, the tape measure must hug your skin. Standing with your legs bare, ask your helper to measure the:
- slimmest part of your ankle, above the anklebone
- widest portion of your calf
- distance from the floor to the crease behind your knee
Begin wearing support socks during your first trimester. This way, you can ward off discomfort in advance. Make applying the hose part of your morning routine, shortly after you awaken. This is the best time, as edema is lowest after sleeping.
Are you wondering how long to wear them? For optimal benefit, keep them on all day.
Especially don them before drives of four hours or more, as DVT prevention. Plus, compression socks are vital during air travel. However, first obtain your doctor’s approval to fly. Generally, flying is safe for international flights if you’re less than 28 weeks gestation. For domestic flights, you must be less than 36 weeks pregnant. 4/
Be sure to remove your compression socks at bedtime. You don’t need them at night since blood flow normalizes during sleep. This is because when your legs are elevated, gravity works to your advantage, sending fluid toward your head.
Regarding where to buy compression stockings, for the broadest selection, shop for them online. Every three months, have your legs measured again. Buy new hose if your current socks are no longer comfortable or supportive. However, don’t go higher than 20-30 mmHg unless your doctor prescribes a stronger pressure level.
Compression socks for pregnancy relieve leg swelling, pain, fatigue, and heaviness. If you’ve never had varicose veins, the stockings may prevent their onset. For pre-existing bulging veins, the hose will curb their symptoms. Your legs will be deeply grateful! Plus, the stockings lower clot risk, a potentially lifesaving advantage over regular hosiery.
Soon you’ll have stylish hose, complementing your rosy glow, lustrous hair, and gorgeous nails, the envy of your friends. Best wishes for an easy pregnancy, safe delivery, and above all, a healthy baby.