Varicose Veins and Compression Stockings During Pregnancy

Varicose and spider veins – a milder variation of varicose veins – are one of the many pregnancy symptoms some women could do without. However, with some 25% of American women afflicted with this condition, many wonder if there’s really anything we can do to prevent it.

The question is: is there a way to prevent varicose veins from happening? Manufacturers of compression stockings certainly seem to think so. Read on for the scoop on what compression stockings can really do you for your legs.

What is the Cause of Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?

When we’re pregnant, the volume of blood our body produces increases dramatically. At the same time, however, the flow of blood from our legs to our pelvis decreases, in an effort to ensure the growing fetus is well-supported.

The downside, of course, is that because the blood in our legs is not able to flow its way back to the heart as efficiently, some of it may be forced to flow backwards. This causes the veins to swell and become what is known as varicose. The reason varicose veins are commonly blue is because this is the color of deoxygenated blood.

Varicose veins most commonly appear during the later stages of pregnancy, usually in the third trimester. Varicose veins can affect pregnant women who have never had them before, or worsen in appearance for those already affected.

Can Compression Stockings Prevent Varicose Veins?

Most medical experts recommend wearing compression stockings as one of the first lines of defense against varicose veins. The stockings are worn all day, with the goal of gently and consistently adding pressure to your legs to help blood flow more easily.

In 2001, a Swiss study was conducted to investigate the efficacy of using compression stockings during pregnancy as a method of preventing varicose veins. While researchers acknowledged that wearing the stockings did not prevent gestational varicose veins, they did find that the veins of women who wore the stockings were significantly less visible than those who did not. They also found that the women who wore the stockings reported significantly improved leg symptoms.

Compression stockings can be found in a range of colors and styles, as well as strengths. When buying stockings, it’s important to ensure they fit well. Follow these steps before making your purchase:

  • Bring a tape measure so that either yourself or the pharmacist can measure your legs so that you can choose the right size compression stocking (each one usually comes with a size chart on the package).
  • Look for stockings that feel strong but are not too tight.
  • If you have arthritis or weak hands, putting them on might be difficult. Enquire about the options available to help you.

Compression stockings can be purchased at most pharmacies, or by prescription from your doctor.

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