One Step at a Time – Pregnancy and compression socks
Pregnancy – a time in a woman’s life when everything feels out of your control. Your blood volume is increasing, your uterus is expanding, your clothes are no longer fitting, your body is swelling. Overall, you are tired and have achy legs, but just think, you have a little miracle growing inside of you! What can you do to help control some of these adverse effects? Compression socks may be your answer.
The risk of venous disorders increases with pregnancy and is exacerbated with prolonged sitting or standing, pre-existing venous conditions, or multiple pregnancies. Clinical studies have found a clear link between pregnancy and varicose veins (1). According to a report published in Swiss Medical Weekly, 30% of women develop varicose veins during their first pregnancy, and 55% develop them during multiple pregnancies. These veins can decrease self confidence in an already drastically changing body.
Why does risk for thrombosis (blood clots) increase with pregnancy? To prevent uncontrollable blood loss during birth or in the event of a miscarriage, blood becomes thicker to help protect the mother. The change in the blood consistency increases the risk for blood clot formation. Blood volume increases by around 40 to 50% during pregnancy. The pressure inside the veins in the legs increases because the growing child is pressing against the pelvic vessels and thus restricting the flow of blood back to the heart. In addition, the increased progesterone causes the expansion of the vein walls which will make the veins less effective. The risk of thrombosis is highest right after giving birth and during the weeks that follow.
Wearing compression socks promotes blood circulation and alleviates discomfort in the legs. The socks provide relief for the veins and reduce edema/swelling while also reducing the risk of venous inflammation, thrombosis and varicose veins. The compression helps with the blood flow back towards the heart and prevents pooling or edema in the lower extremities. Wearing compression socks is therefore advisable from the very start of the pregnancy.
Compression socks can come as knee highs, thigh highs or leggings. Please ensure you are sized by a certified provider to ensure the fit and compression is appropriate. If they are not correct, this could make your problem worse.
PLEASE REMEMBER: There is a pregnancy condition called pre-eclampsia, which causes sudden swelling. If this happens, you need to contact your doctor immediately so that you can be monitored immediately. Other pre-eclampsia symptoms include blurring vision, bad headaches, vomiting, and severe pain below the ribs.
- A systematic review and meta-analysis of the risk for development of varicose veins in women with a history of pregnancy. (Ismail et al., 2016)