Pregnancy causes a lot of changes to an expectant mother’s body. Some of them, like the baby bump, are cute and exciting. Other changes aren’t very fun at all.
A common issue among pregnant women is leg swelling or cramping. You or your partner may also notice veins becoming more prominent, a condition known as varicose veins. Many of these issues are caused by a decrease in proper blood flow.
You already know that there are numerous products on the market that can help pregnant women with the various discomforts that come with pregnancy. Many, like our Belly Support Band, are based on pressure or compression.
Many midwives and OB-GYNs may recommend compression socks in order to help with the cramping and decreased blood flow. After putting them on for the first time and feeling relief, you or your partner may be wondering, “How long can I wear these socks for? Is it dangerous to keep them on for long periods of time?”
We’re here to answer your questions.
What Are Compression Socks?
Compression socks or stockings are articles of clothing that put pressure on the leg. They are usually intended to help with problems caused by poor circulation through the leg.
There are many different types of compression socks, and what you or your partner will be using depends on the severity of the issue and what they’re needed for. There are various degrees of pressure that you can buy. (Note that heavy compression socks that put the most pressure on the leg typically need to be prescribed by a doctor.)
You can also find compression socks to fit your needs and style. There are open-toed stockings, knee-high stockings, compression garments just for the lower leg, and there are even compression tights.
You can also find compression socks that are made for a specific purpose. The most common compression socks are graduated compression socks. These are tight around the ankle, but as they go up the leg, the pressure decreases.
The other major type is anti-embolism compression stockings. They are intended primarily for people who are confined to bed and may need help to keep their blood circulating properly and prevent issues related to blood clots. These socks tend to be used after surgery.
How Do Compression Socks Work?
All the benefits of compression socks are due to the gentle pressure they put on your legs. The gentle squeeze from the socks causes the pressure in the tissues under the skin to increase, reducing excess fluid and helping it to be absorbed by the capillaries.
Compression therapy helps blood to flow better, which in turn prevents a buildup of blood (called edema) in the legs of an expectant mother.
How To Wear Compression Socks
When you wear compression socks, there are a few things you need to make sure of so that you can get the maximum benefit.
If you need help putting on compression socks, especially if either you or your partner is having difficulty bending over, take a look at some easy ways to put on compression socks.
Firstly, it’s important to consult with your OB or midwife if you have issues with swelling or varicose veins. While compression socks can be bought over the counter, if you’re already having difficulties with swelling, your doctor might be able to help you find socks that work well for you.
If it’s early in the pregnancy and you haven’t noticed any swelling but you want to wear compression socks to prevent any issues, over-the-counter ones should work well. However, it doesn’t hurt to double-check.
It’s also essential to make sure that your compression socks are the right size. You can’t roll or fold compression socks down since it can make the socks too tight, causing further circulation problems.
When you put the compression socks on, they need to be completely flat against the skin. If the socks have wrinkles or bunching, they won’t work as well.
If you’re using compression socks to help relieve swelling, it’s best to put them on immediately after getting up. Swelling tends to go down at night, so it can make it easier to get the socks on and prevent the issue from getting worse later in the day.
Why Would I Need Compression Socks?
People need compression socks for different reasons, but the most common factor is to improve blood flow.
Expectant mothers usually wear compression socks to help with pregnancy-related symptoms, but athletes might wear them to improve blood flow while they’re running or exercising, allowing more oxygen to get to their muscles. Some people even wear them on long flights to counteract the effects of gravity.
Usually, people wear compression stockings for a few reasons:
- Cramping in the legs
- Varicose veins (also called spider veins)
- Reducing the risk of complications related to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which is when a blood clot forms within your leg
- Preventing factors that could increase the risk of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms
- Promoting vascular wellness
- Medical conditions (such as heart failure)
If you’re having issues with proper blood flow in the legs, compression socks are meant to help. If you have other health issues, like an arterial disease or poor heart function, compression socks may not help, which is another reason to consult with your doctor.
If you have a medical reason for needing compression socks beyond pregnancy, your healthcare provider may recommend medical-grade socks that have a higher level of compression.
How Long Can I Wear Compression Socks For?
Now that we know what compression socks are, how they work, and what they do, we also need to take a look at how long you can wear compression socks. The answer to this question will vary from person to person, depending on what your midwife or OB recommends.
It’s imperative to follow your doctor’s instructions if you have prescription socks since they exert more pressure than over-the-counter socks. The prescription will probably depend on the problem you have.
Depending on the compression level of your socks, it’s generally okay if you wear compression socks all day, especially if you’re on your feet a lot or if you will be going from standing to sitting frequently. If the socks become uncomfortable or are already uncomfortable when you put them on, it’s okay to take them off.
If you’re having issues with swelling, you can put on your socks first thing in the morning and wear them all day, which should help reduce and/or prevent any swelling during the day.
If the discomfort is consistent, you may want to consider finding another alternative to help with the issues you may be having.
When To Take Compression Socks Off
Generally, you’ll want to wear compression socks when your legs are lower than your heart. This is because it’s more difficult for the blood to travel up through the legs, so it needs an extra boost.
When you lay down, you should probably take your compression socks off unless your doctor instructs you to do otherwise. Since the legs and the heart are at the same level, it’s much easier for the heart to pump the blood back to itself.
Similarly, if you’re lying with your legs elevated, it’s also a good idea to take the socks off since gravity is also there to help improve blood flow.
Can I Wear Them While I’m Sleeping?
Even if you or your partner is experiencing swelling, it’s typically recommended to take compression socks off when sleeping. Since your legs will be at the same level as the rest of your body, it’s not necessary to wear compression socks.
Taking the socks off for part of the night will allow your legs and feet to breathe. It could also be a good time to wash the socks following the proper instructions since you or your partner won’t be needing them.
However, if your doctor recommends that you wear them while you sleep, you should follow their instructions.
Helping Your Circulation and Your Health
Compression socks are a helpful tool that expectant mothers can use to improve circulation. How long you wear them depends on what you need them for.
Generally, wearing compression socks all day is safe as long as you’re comfortable and your legs are lower than your heart. Your doctor may also have specific instructions as to when and how long you should wear compression socks.
Compression socks can benefit pregnant women in so many ways, and you can start wearing them early on in your pregnancy before you notice any issues, or you can start wearing them later. As long as you keep this information in mind, you should be good to go.
If you need information about other pregnancy-related products that can help you as your body changes, from product recommendations to how-to’s on how to fold baby clothes, you can check out our pregnancy blog.
What to Know About Compression Socks: How They Work + Their Health Benefits | MBSF
What You Should Know About Compression Socks | Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials
How long should I wear compression stockings to improve my circulation? | NHS
Can Wearing Compression Socks Be Harmful? Risks & Best Practices | Healthline