Pregnancy is an exciting time for most women that comes with a list of bodily changes. Many women benefit from “pregnancy glow” and even glossy hair. However, as common as the pregnancy glow is, swelling in the ankles and feet is an equally normal, albeit less comfortable, side effect of pregnancy.
This swelling occurs because of extreme pressure on veins that traps fluids that have to flow upward against the force of gravity in the feet, ankles, lower legs, and even thighs.
A study published in the Brazilian Review of Obstetrics and Gynecology confirmed that most pregnant women develop swollen ankles during pregnancy. The circumference of the foot at the ankle typically increases about an inch (2.5 cm). Swelling at the ankles brings not only discomfort, but makes it difficult to even walk.
Some pregnant women develop swelling that goes farther up the leg. They may have an inch or more of swelling in the calves and thighs. The pressure on the smaller blood vessels in the legs causes telangiectasia, better known as spider veins. Women who don't have varicose veins may develop them, and women who already have varicose veins will see them getting larger.
A study published in the Journal of Lymphatic Research and Biology found that pregnant women who have problems with the veins in the legs before pregnancy will almost always have worse problems with the veins in their legs during pregnancy. Women who have never had vein problems before tend to develop them during pregnancy. Also, women who have been pregnant more than twice are more likely to develop varicose veins in their legs that persist after the baby is born.
While vein problems during pregnancy are common, they are not inevitable. However, pregnancy compression socks can help!
Graduated compression is the secret in comfortable pregnancy compression socks
Compression socks help a woman's body overcome the force of gravity and the effects of added weight during pregnancy.
Most pregnant women are healthy enough that their bodies don't have any difficulty sending oxygen-rich, nutrient-carrying blood right down to the tips of their toes through the arteries in their legs.
The problem in pregnancy arises because there isn't a corresponding pump for forcing deoxygenated, nutrient-depleted blood back to the hearts and lungs through the veins.
Pregnancy compression socks provide the circulatory system the support and assist they need. They place pressure on your toes and feet to open up the veins so blood flows more easily against the force of gravity.
Compression socks during pregnancy also place a little less pressure on the ankles, and even less on the calves, to keep blood flowing back to the heart and lungs to pick up more oxygen.
This keeps blood from accumulating in veins, stretching them out to form spider and varicose veins.
Of course, wearing compression socks isn't all women can do to avoid swelling in the feet, ankles and calves during pregnancy. It also helps to avoid food products with a high salt content and walking several times a day to keep their circulation going.
When it is not possible to get up and walk, it's important to keep the legs elevated as sitting aggravates problems with blood flow up through the veins, especially when the knees are also swollen.
The rule for treating edema without compression socks is "toes over nose." Women who could hold their feet up in the air all day would never get swollen ankles. Expectant mothers can't do that. But nothing is more helpful than compression socks for relieving swelling of the lower extremities during pregnancy.
Are compression socks safe during pregnancy?
Compression socks are so safe that doctors recommend them to protect veins in the legs after surgery. Sometimes doctors tell women who have a predilection for blood clots to wear pregnancy compression socks to prevent deep vein thrombosis. Even Compression Level III socks are safe for pregnant women. The Medical Compression Level I and Medical Compression Level II socks (up to 40 mmHg) to prevent vein problems during pregnancy have no negative side effects, they will relieve swelling and help women walk easily.