Maternity Compression Socks & Stockings
Compression therapy can be dated all the way back to ancient Greece and involves exerting a controlled pressure to increase blood flow in the legs back to the heart.
Varicose veins occur when the one-way valves in the veins become damaged and cause blood to pool. This can occur due to the increased volume of blood to help your baby grow, putting pressure on your blood vessels, the surge of pregnancy hormones, the extra weight of the baby, and being less active during pregnancy.
What is Graduated Compression?
Graduated (or gradient) compression means the compression level changes and it exerts the greatest pressure at the ankle which gradually reduces up the leg. The pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury and is denoted as mmHg. This is the same type of measurement as when a doctor takes your blood pressure.
How does Graduated Compression Work?
Graduated compression works by squeezing the leg tightest at the ankle and gradually decreasing upwards to help counteract gravity and assist blood flow back to the heart. Arteries expand and contract but veins have thin walls and compressing the leg muscles this way helps keep the blood moving.
What are the Different Compression Levels?
Generally gradient compression is graded as
- 10-15 mmHg - light compression
- 15-20 mmHg - class 1 mild compression
- 23-32 mmHg - class 2 moderate compression
- 34-46 mmHg - class 3 strong compression
- over 49 mmHg - class 4 very strong compression for hospital use
Please note that different organisations have their own classification levels so please check with your doctor.
What is Medical Grade Compression?
Graduated compression levels above 20mmHg are considered medical grade. Your doctor will prescribe which compression level is best for your individual circumstances.
Why wear Graduated Compression?
Benefits of wearing graduated compression include
- improved blood circulation particularly in the legs
- helps prevent and reduce swelling of the feet, ankles and legs
- helps relieve tired achy legs
- helps prevent and provide relief for varicose veins and reticular veins
- support when standing for long periods of time
- support when sitting for long periods of time (eg on a flight)
How do you Measure for Compression Stockings?
Measurements are best taken early in the morning when there is the least amount of swelling. Generally you will need to know your ankle, calf, thigh circumference (depending on the garment type) and sometimes your height and weight. Higher grades of gradient compression may require additional measurements.
When Should you Put your Compression Garment on?
It’s best to put them on in the morning. If you leave it till later in the day, your legs and feet may swell (one of the symptoms you are trying to prevent) making it harder to put on. You should always remove them before bedtime.
How do you Put on Compression Stockings?
Put aside 10-15 minutes to put on your gradient compression stockings.
- Compression needs to fit snugly, particularly at the ankle, so it can be a little difficult to put on.
- We also recommend wearing light cotton gloves (these are usually provided by your doctor when they prescribe compression wear) to avoid nails or jewellery catching on the delicate fabric.
- If you put lotion on your legs make sure that it completely dries - moisture makes it harder to pull the stocking up.
- Tip: a little talc or cornstarch will absorb any moisture and can help ease them on. Alternatively, placing a silk scarf over your foot/heel will also help the stocking slide on more easily and the scarf can then be pulled out.
- It’s generally easier to put on when the top part of the stocking is inside out (keeping the toe part the right side up).
- You can do this by putting your hand and arm inside the stocking, then holding onto the toe part, carefully slide the stocking off your arm.
- Put your toes into the stocking and arrange the foot so that it is aligned.
- Then carefully bring the stocking over your heel - this is the tough part as the ankle area is the most snug fitting and it can be hard to stretch it over your heel.
- Once this is done, check that your stocking is correctly aligned.
- Then roll the stocking up your leg, gently easing it up and keeping it smooth and straight as you go.
- Be careful not to pull or tug on the stocking as this can cause it to rip.
- Ensure there are no wrinkles or folds as that may cause additional pressure in that area.
How Should the Compression Stocking Feel?
Compression stockings are designed to be firm and may take getting used to. When properly fitted, compression should feel snug at first but only takes a short time to ease. If there is discomfort, tingling or your toes change colour, remove immediately and consult your doctor.
How Many Compression Stockings do I Need?
These are foundation garments and it’s best to have 2-3 on hand to rotate them. Wearing the same garment every day will wear it out much faster.
How Often Should I Replace Compression Stockings?
It’s generally recommended to replace gradient compression stockings every four to six months as the elasticity of the fabric will loosen over time and may not provide the required compression. When having your stockings replaced you should re-measure to ensure the correct sizing.