Whenever you hear the words “compression socks”, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is that they are meant only for athletes. In reality, there are many, many people who find compression socks useful. In this article, we are going to focus on wearing compression socks during pregnancy.
Are you pregnant and the victim of your legs swelling to the size of a tree trunk? How do you feel after a long day? Pregnancy is a life-changing experience and can be both physically and mentally exhausting.
Having a Baby is not Easy!
Health Concerns Associated with Pregnant Women
As a woman’s body prepares to develop a new life, several changes occur, leaving women to endure, at the very least, mild to severe discomfort at times. The body produces more blood and the uterus increases in size which combine to increase pressure on the legs.
One of the problems most pregnant women face is edema, which is a venous disorder. More commonly called “fluid retention”, edema can affect a specific part of the body, most commonly the limbs and extremities, or the entire body. Another problem is varicose (bulging) veins, which can also be very uncomfortable. After numerous studies regarding the management of pregnancy-related body changes and pain were conducted, it was discovered that compression sock can help reduce swelling and move excess fluid out of the legs, significantly providing overall relief (Dresang, Lee T., et al. 2008).
Are Compression Socks Safe to Wear During Pregnancy?
It is normal to be concerned about the health safety associated with compression socks for women during their pregnancy or third trimester. The answer is yes! Compression socks are safe to wear during pregnancy if certain conditions are met:
- Always consult your health-care provider or, preferably, your gynecologist regarding the type of compression needed based on pressure levels and how long the socks are to be worn.
- Your health-care professional should also advise you on what stage of your pregnancy compression socks would be suitable for.
Ongoing research is being conducted to verify the advantages of wearing compression socks during pregnancy. An article published by The International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology highlighted that their research indicated that compression therapy improved medical symptoms associated with venous congestions and blood circulation of the legs during pregnancy periods and postpartum. It was also discovered from the research that consistent use of compression during periods of pregnancy and after birth, alleviates the development of blood clots causing obstruction of the blood vessels.
What Actually are Compression Socks?
Compression stockings or hosiery are specially modified fabrics designed to help sooth pains and uncomfortable symptoms on the lower body parts. They are usually elastic and modified to mount a certain amount of pressure on the affected area. Athletes use compression socks to relieve pain on the legs during vigorous exercise. Individuals with medical-related conditions also use them for treatment therapy.
The need to wear compression socks arises from pregnant women in need of relief from pregnancy-related leg cramps. Although leg cramps are normal pregnancy experiences, it can be really frustrating to be confined to bed because your legs hurt. Compression socks not only relieve your pain but will also help shift your weight off your legs so that they feel lighter and easier to carry. Compression socks hug your legs with a pressure comfortable enough to make your feet feel lighter while enabling blood movement up your body.
Who Wears Compression Support Stockings?
Since compressions socks can be basically referred to as nice stretchy and fitted socks that give relief to the muscles and aid blood circulation, literally everyone could benefit from wearing compression socks.
Although this article is focusing on maternity compressions, compression socks are worn by lots of individuals for different reasons. They include but are not limited to:
- Pregnant women
- The elderly (men and women)
- Athletes/Sports enthusiasts
- Individuals prone to thromboembolism (development of blood clots)
- Blood circulatory challenges on the lower body part
- Post-surgery patients
- Health workers, hospitality workers, and other professionals who are required to stand on their feet for long periods
- And more
Fun Fact: How Long Has Compression Legwear Been in Existence?
Compression legwear has been around for a very long time in one form or another. Compression legwear can be either an elastic fabric or a bandage wrapped tightly around the limbs, just as soldiers of long ago used.
Forms of Compression Socks
There are several types of compression socks. Your choice, however, depends on the purpose of the socks (medical or non-medical purposes). Medical compression socks can be used to prevent or sooth health conditions that may occur from pregnancy symptoms such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). They include:
- Graduated compression socks- In this type of socks, the pressure is strongest at the ankles and feet then gradually reduces as it progresses up the leg. Some, which only reach up to the thighs, reduce fluid build-up in the feet and varicose veins, while others reach up to the calf and are used to improve peripheral edema. Graduated socks are easier to wear, especially if you will be using them for a long time. The advantage of using graduated compression socks is the improved flow of blood up your body. In this manner, weight can be lifted off your legs, enabling you to feel fewer aches and pains in your lower region.
- Anti-embolism socks- These socks reduce the possibility of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). They also provide gradual compression. These socks are great for pregnant women struggling with DVT and have to travel by air. This reduces your chance of getting blood clots and swelling especially if you will be traveling for long hours.
This is the continuous use of specially modified fabrics which can mount a specific amount of pressure worn on the legs or hands for correctional or preventive purposes. It makes use of compression socks or bandages to give support to the legs so that the blood vessels can be narrowed (this improves blood flow) therefore preventing pooling of blood in the legs. This process circulates blood from the high-pressure regions of the body, e.g legs to the heart for proper circulation. The end result is a light, pain-free leg, free of blood clots and a reduced possibility of developing varicose veins.
Features and Designs of Compressions for Pregnant Women
The struggle is real. We understand the dilemma and will help get your feet to a size perfect for shoe shopping!
Trendy and fashionable: There are trendy types of compression socks designed to meet medical needs while following the current fashion trends. Following are the types of fashionable compression sock designs you will find in the market:
- Open toe socks: This type gives you the opportunity to wear high heel sandals so you can flaunt your new pedicure.
- Closed socks: Give you a more cozy feeling while you flow with the trend.
- Colorful socks: Compression socks no longer come only in dull colors. You can pick out whichever color suits you best.
- Various lengths of compression socks to choose from: Thigh-length, anklets, knee-high, full-length, calf-length compression socks and many more.
Health Benefits of Wearing Compression Socks
Wearing them during the third-trimester can improve your leg health!
Most women find pregnancy alone overwhelming. Having to deal with physical changes of the body and emotional fluctuation can leave women with problems like achy, tired, heavy and swollen feet and painful varicose veins. The body begins preparations to accommodate your baby immediately after fertilization. Your body produces more blood and hormonal changes make the walls of your blood vessels too smooth to pump blood properly. This, in turn, causes blood to pool in your legs with the possibility of clotting. This causes a heavy feeling on your lower regions and overall tiredness. In severe cases, the clot may break loose and be transported into the lungs where it can cause a condition known as a pulmonary embolism. When you wear compression socks and combine them with a few exercises, you will enjoy the following:
- Prevention of DVT, varicose veins and swollen feet if worn early enough and to correct these conditions even after their symptoms begin.
- Lighter legs, so you can move around all you want, enjoy uninterrupted sleep and a normal daily routine without being restricted by heavy painful legs.
- The overall health of you and your baby. Your blood pressure affects your baby’s too. It important that your heart rate is kept normal. If your heart does less work to pump blood, you feel less tired and so does your baby.
- Fashion and Style: Compression socks now look really fashionable. You no longer have to worry about dull and common designs. You can wear compression socks and still follow the fashion trend. You can also have some fun and develop your own unique style.
What Should A Good Compression Sock Look And Feel Like?
It is not enough to just walk into a store and pick out the most eye-catching design you see. It is about choosing the ones that are suitable for you. Here are a few things you need to consider before picking out compression socks for yourself:
- Color and Design: You are free to choose any design or color that suits your personality. No need to be restricted to old dull patterns.
- Fits: It is important that you pick out your perfect size. Under-sized socks may deform your legs or leave you with irritated skin. You might enlist the help of a professional to get your correct size.
- Quality of Fabric: Check that the fabric is soft against your skin, because rough materials may irritate your skin.
Different Pressure Range of Compression Socks for Pregnancy/Maternity
The pressure that compression socks offer will determine how constriction will be placed on your legs. The lower the pressure, the lower the compression; the higher the pressure, the higher the compression a sock can apply. The pressure contained in compression socks is represented by mmHg which is known as the millimeter of Mercury. Let’s take a look at what the different levels of compression mean:
The lowest category (8-15 mmHg): This is mildly constrictive and is used to prevent the development of varicose veins and relieve leg pain especially for people who are on their feet for long periods of time.
The middle category (15-20mmHg): This uses medium pressure to compress the limbs. They prevent the occurrence of deep vein thrombosis and help reduce aches and pains in your legs.
The top categories range from 20-50mmHg: These categories are used by individuals with severe cases of Deep Vein Thrombosis, severe varicose veins, venous ulcers and leg pains. 40-50mmHg will require a prescription from your doctor as it is the strongest strength of compression socks.
Pregnancy and Compression Socks
They are one of the best things to wear when having a baby and after!
To maximize the function of the compression socks, you have to ensure you:
- Do not stay in one position for too long. Instead of standing or sitting for a long time you can take a short walk.
- Stretch your body as much as you can. Mild exercise is good for the body. However, avoid rigorous ones for the baby’s safety.
- Rest as much as you can. To keep your heart stable, it is important to rest effectively, clear your head and take short naps.
- Place your legs over a pillow while sleeping.
Start to wear them during maternity now!
Since compression socks are made from soft elastic non-toxic materials, they are safe to use. However, some users complained of the following:
- Uneven Indentation on the surface of the skin that soon disappears after stopping the use of compression socks.
- Irritation and itchy rashes on legs due to heat from wearing compression socks
- Wrinkled skin from too much constriction from compression socks
- Fungal growth on the feet causing a strong odor
- Over-controlled blood circulation can lead to seized blood circulation causing numbness of the legs
To avoid the aforementioned possible side effects, it is advised to avoid prolonged continual use of compression socks. It is also advised to consult your healthcare provider or gynecologist for recommendations on which compression sock is best suited for you.
Compression Socks are literally one of the best garments for all the mommies out there!
Wearing compression socks gives you a pregnancy two-for-one benefit. You will be extremely comfortable and look fabulous doing it! Get compression socks that fit you and match your style today!