I have received many questions about support socks or stockings during pregnancy and even after childbirth. I did some research and found the latest information about the topic to provide you with answers.
Before talking about how an elastic sock or support sock or compression stocking can be useful during pregnancy, I think I should first talk about the physiological changes that take place in women during pregnancy.
Physiological Changes During Pregnancy
You know that:
- You will have more liquid in your body as the pregnancy progresses (blood and physiological liquid). 50% increase in blood volume.
- You will have hormones that will impact your blood vessels in your lower limbs by dilating them, which increases water retention in the lower body.
- Your uterus will grow as the baby does, which will compress your vena cava in the right groin. This will also reduce venous return, blood flow from the lower to the upper body, towards the heart.
- A pregnant woman is more likely to have swollen legs and see the appearance of varicose veins (venous insufficiency) due to the accumulation of liquids in the lower limbs.
- Swelling, oedema and bloating of the lower limbs can lead to pain, twinges, discomfort and heavy legs.
- Surplus weight increases the load on the lower limbs and, over time, can lead to venous insufficiency.
- Liquid retention and its stagnation in the lower limbs predispose pregnant women to clots, thrombosis and the risk of thrombophlebitis.
So those are reminders about the physiological changes. Now, how do compression socks or stockings help pregnant women as their pregnancy progresses?
Compression Socks or Stockings
A compression or support sock is a medical tool that compresses the calves and legs to help blood move up towards the upper body, promoting blood circulation from the lower body towards the upper body. Compression socks or stockings can reduce the accumulation of liquids in the lower limbs and the discomfort that stems from this. This is why they can be beneficial during pregnancy, but they are not indispensable.
Public health officials have not made official regulations on the topic. Only Health Canada talks about the usefulness of support socks for pregnant women who take flights to prevent potential thrombophlebitis disorders. They are simply grouped with other high-risk travellers with vascular problems.
There are different support accessory models: ankle socks, knee socks and stockings that support the thigh. There are some socks for summer (less hot) and others for the rest of the year.
For a pregnant woman, a compression stocking is adapted to their changing condition, with an elastically extensible triangle on her abdomen. This allows for optimal comfort as the pregnancy progresses. The ankle sock or knee sock models do not offer full protection.
Three support strengths are available to provide different levels of compression – low, medium and strong depending on each person’s risks. Ideally, you should get a prescription from your doctor which indicates the compression strength you need based on your risk factors.
If wearing a compression stocking is for preventative purposes only, and you don’t have risk factors, low surface support is sufficient. The more risks, the more support needed, the stronger the compression.
Continue reading with Risk factors in pregnant women which suggest support socks might be necessary.