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How To Be Leg Smart During Your Pregnancy

Should I wear compression stockings during my pregnancy?

No one needs to tell you that pregnancy causes an amazing transformation to your Healthy Body. Unfortunately not all transformations are desirable and it was my mother’s hard earned advice to start early when it comes to preventing varicose veins.

Three children later and the veins to prove it- she underwent surgery to remove a few of the veins that were exceptionally painful and unsightly, but without continuing to wear her compression stockings or socks the varicosities eventually came back, worse the second time around requiring a second surgery. This led me to become more educated in the causes of damage to our veins, including pregnancy –induced varicose veins. Consequently it led to the purchase of my very own compression stockings even though I’m not expecting.

Most women don’t wear compression stockings during the first pregnancy. They may only start to wear them once they experience pain which may not be till years later or during a subsequent pregnancy. By then the veins are already distended, with valve damage. Of women who have multiple births, a majority will develop varicose veins. Compression stockings may be difficult to put on, (more on that below), but they really do make a difference in the long term. Although compression stockings help relieve pain and symptoms, the key is preventing the damage from occurring before you feel the negative effects!!

So, now that I’ve given you my two cents, which compression stockings should you buy?

You may, of course, walk into a surgical supply store and purchase compression tights identical to those your grandmother wore in the 1970’s. But that is no longer necessary, as there are designers out there designing compression tights that are actually somewhat fashion forward. Here is what to consider before you make your purchase:

1. Compression. Compression stockings are available in graduated support levels, starting at 8-15mm/Hg and topping out at 40-50mm/Hg (you’ll need a prescription for the higher support levels such as 20-30mm/Hg at which are covered by most extended health coverage). Some drug stores or maternity stores may sell support stockings but there is no attached support level. These are not compression stockings and will not provide the therapeutic effect. Furthermore make sure you are getting a medical gradient compression stocking to help promote blood flow back to the heart (highest level of compression at the ankle, least amount of compression at the thigh). As a certified custom fitter for compression stockings I always recommend going to a clinic to be fitted to ensure the proper support.

2. Opaque or Sheer? Compression stockings are available in both sheer and opaque styles. The sheer have a higher chance of ripping or tearing so going with an opaque may last longer. Besides- if Kate Middleton and other celebs can pull off the “tight” look under media scrutiny, so can you!

3. Pantyhose or Socks? Even the sock will help prevent varicosities. Remember 100% of the compression should happen at the ankle and gets less and less up the leg. The choice is really up to you and what your needs require.

4. Price. Compression stockings are not inexpensive- be prepared to spend $100-$200 on a high quality pair. If you wear them every day, they should last you about 6 months. Once they become easy to put on you should replace them (isn’t that always the way!).

5. How to put them on? There are many aides available for donning and doffing your compression stockings however I find that simply turning them inside out when putting them on will do the trick.


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