Pregnancy & Compression Garments
Pregnancy is a special time to take care of your developing baby and yourself. While much of the focus is on your baby and bodily changes, changes are also affecting your veins. The normal hormonal changes that occur with pregnancy affect the walls of your veins causing the vein walls to relax or dilate. Relaxation of the veins occurs early in the pregnancy – during the first trimester. Total blood volume also increases in the first trimester and gradually rises with gestation. Your total blood volume may increase as much as 45% in comparison to the non-pregnant level. Relaxation of the vein walls, especially in areas of venous valves may cause the valve to become incompetent – thus allowing backward flow of the venous blood.
Vein relaxation, valve incompetence, and increased blood volume all contribute to reducing venous flow from your legs. The reduced flow results in congestion. Venous congestion in turn causes swelling and leg discomfort. Ankle swelling occurs with most pregnant women.
During the later months of pregnancy (third trimester) the weight of the baby and the uterus may impede return of blood through the veins of your legs. This is often dependent on your physical position.
Gradient compression stockings reduce venous congestion and support the superficial veins of your legs. This helps manage the increased blood volume and relaxed vein walls thus reducing the amount of swelling and the severity of varicose veins.
Talk with your obstetrician or OB nurse about the amount of compression and stocking style best suited for you during this pregnancy.