The Purpose of Compression Socks

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Compression socks are useful for easing pain and preventing a wide range of medical conditions in the lower body.

They can be especially helpful during pregnancy, helping women manage a wide range of problems in the feet and legs. Let’s look at the purpose of compression socks during pregnancy.

The Purpose of Compression Socks

Feet and Leg Problems During Pregnancy

Feet and leg pain are incredibly common during pregnancy, and most women experience them at some point while they are pregnant.

Hormonal changes increased weight, and changes in exercise habits can all contribute to problems in the legs and feet. Here are some of the most common problems women experience with their legs and feet during pregnancy:

Swelling in the Legs and Feet

Swelling and bloating in the feet and ankles (edema) during pregnancy is incredibly common.

Higher hormone levels cause women to retain water so that the additional fluid can provide nutrients and oxygen to the baby. However, this additional fluid can accumulate in the lower body, because pregnancy also reduces circulation between the upper and lower body.

Leg Cramps

Leg cramps are extremely common during pregnancy because they can be caused by so many things.

The growing uterus may be pressing on nerves in the legs; they may be caused by reduced circulation; they can be caused by low calcium or potassium, or even simple fatigue in the leg muscles as they adapt to rapid changes in body weight and distribution.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are also common during pregnancy, as the blood flow in the body increases, expanding the walls of veins and blood vessels.

Reduced circulation in the lower body, along with greater blood flow to extremities, can cause blood to collect in the veins and make them swollen and enlarged. Most women experience an improvement of varicose veins after giving birth.


Thrombosis is the greatest health risk in the legs and feet during pregnancy, although the risk is usually very small.

With thrombosis, the reduced circulation that can cause leg pain and varicose veins creates a blood clot in the legs. If that blood clot breaks free from the legs and travels into the heart or lungs, it can be a serious health problem.

Pregnant women are at a greater risk for thrombosis, and the elevated risk can last for up to six weeks after giving birth.

How do Compression Socks Help with Feet and Leg Problems During Pregnancy?

As the name suggests, compression socks provide gentle pressure in the feet and legs. This gentle, even compression provides extra support to the muscles, tissues, and blood vessels in the lower body.

Compression socks help promote healthy circulation, preventing excess fluids from building up in the feet and legs, reducing swelling and vein problems, and making pregnancy safer and more comfortable.

The Purpose of Compression Socks

Different Types of Compression Socks

There are several different types of compression socks. Here are the three different broad categories of compression socks.

Body Coverage

Compression socks can cover just the feet and ankles, or go up to the knee. They are available in over-the-knee and stocking styles as well.

Amount of Pressure

Compression socks are rated by how much pressure they apply on the legs, rated in mm/Hg. Lower numbers provide less compression and support, while higher numbers provide greater pressure.

Many women use low-pressure compression socks earlier in pregnancy, to provide comfort and reduce swelling, and then use higher-compression socks later in pregnancy to prevent varicose veins, spider veins, and lower the risk of thrombosis.

Graduated Pressure

Graduated compression socks don’t create even compression throughout the length of the sock.

Instead, they provide more compression in the ankle, and less compression as the sock extends up the leg. These are a good option to reduce and control ankle swelling and promote healthy circulation, without creating extra pressure in the upper leg.


For ordinary pregnancy swelling in the feet and ankles, or nighttime leg cramps, there are a wide range of over-the-counter compression socks that can help ease the pain and discomfort.

Compression socks are simple and safe, and you can try the type that works best for you. Remember that they should be comfortable to wear, without impeding any of your motion, or pinching or binding.

If you have medical concerns about your circulation and risk of thrombosis, it’s best to discuss your concerns with your doctor.

Compression socks are just one way to help reduce these risks and ease these symptoms, and your doctor can give you the best advice for your needs and concerns.

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