Socks Appeal: How Compression Socks Keep Your Legs and Feet Safer During Pregnancy

Socks Appeal: How Compression Socks Keep Your Legs and Feet Safer During Pregnancy

We all know (or can at least imagine) the toll that being pregnant takes on a woman’s body – you can be affected quite literally from head to toe. This is especially true during the last trimester, when the list of symptoms and issues just keeps on growing.

One particular issue is taking care of your legs and feet, which can have a tendency to swell and cause pain in the last few weeks leading up to the birth. As your baby grows, so your uterus grows with it and starts impeding on your other internal organs. Your pelvis is squashed into an increasingly smaller space and so the veins within it also become compressed, slowing down the blood flow into your legs and feet. At the same time, your body produces up to 50% more blood and bodily fluids during pregnancy to meet the needs of your growing baby and to help lubricate and prepare the pelvic joints for delivery.

The combination of squeezed organs, restricted veins and increased bodily fluids can all lead to a condition known as oedema, or swelling in the hands, face, legs, ankles and feet. While oedema is a normal pregnancy symptom, it should still be monitored carefully as it can cause pain and discomfort and become dangerous if left untreated. External factors, such as warmer temperatures, having to stand a lot while pregnant, too much physical exertion and a high level of caffeine intake can exacerbate the problem.

Socks Appeal: How Compression Socks Keep Your Legs and Feet Safer During Pregnancy

Swollen legs? Act now!

Symptoms of an oedema include heavy or tired legs and feet, swollen legs or ankles and the appearance of dark veins in your legs. Smaller, thinner veins are known as thread veins, while deeper ones are called varicose veins. These latter veins must be treated right away, as they can lead on to more serious, life-threatening conditions, such as DVT (deep vein thrombosis). If you are concerned about your legs, ankles or feet during pregnancy consult your doctor or midwife straight away. Equally, if you see or feel a sudden swelling in your face or hands you must seek urgent medical attention, as this can be a sign of something serious like preeclampsia.

In the meantime, try to remain active without tiring yourself out. When you feel tired, uncomfortable, or simply in need of a rest, sit or lie down with your ankles elevated so that they are higher than your bump. Try to remain in this position for at least 20 minutes to help your legs recover and to encourage any excess fluid to drain away and ease the pressure from your lower half. You may also be able to reduce the swelling a little by eating a banana (for the potassium) and avoiding caffeine. Stop wearing high heels and avoid clothes that are tight around your wrists or ankles. A cold compress will also offer relief from discomfort caused by swelling.

Sock it to ‘em

A major way to ease leg pain and reduce swelling, or even prevent it from occurring in the first place, is to invest in a pair (or several) or maternity compression socks or tights. These are tight-fitting, sturdy hosiery that fit closely around your legs and feet to promote healthy circulation of the blood and ward off thread or varicose veins. They work by squeezing the leg tissues and the walls of your veins to help the blood flow back to your heart. They counteract any weaknesses in the lower legs that could lead to blood pooling. Additionally, they can improve the flow of the lymph fluid in your legs to help reduce swelling in the tissue.

Compression tights designed for pregnancy also tends to have built in support for your stomach, bump and lower back and are well-proven to soothe aches and pains and to reduce swelling in the legs, ankles and feet. They come in a variety of sizes –use a tape measure to measure the circumference of your legs at various places, such as your ankle, calf and thigh in order to find the closest fit.

Get the compression look

Compression tights and socks also come in a variety of colors and styles to suit your look; gone are the days of unsightly, white hospital versions being your only option. If you are concerned about skin infections or other medical conditions that could be adversely affected by wearing compression hosiery, seek expert medical advice before starting to use them.

Try to keep your compression socks or tights on all day, taking them off to go to bed. You may like to get two or three pairs so that you always have a clean pair available when others are in the wash. It can be easier to put them back on in the morning before you get out of bed to reduce the risk of swelling taking place before you have a chance to get dressed.

Make sure there are no folds or wrinkles in them that could dig into your leg and exert excess pressure on the skin. Do this by smoothing your compression tights or socks down with the palms of your hands to check that they are sitting correctly. They come in different levels of compression, from light to very strong, and it’s best to start with a lighter version first to make sure that you feel comfortable wearing them.

Post pregnancy

Another advantage to compression socks and tights is that they can also be used during long-haul flights and travel when your legs are also at an increased risk of DVT from sitting still for hours in a confined space. Always follow your doctor or midwife’s advice when it comes to flying and travelling during pregnancy. Don’t forget that you can always keep your compression socks or tights for use during long flights after the baby has been born, or simply for wearing at home if you feel weary or uncomfortable, or if you find yourself standing for long periods at a time when you are back at work.

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Tips for Flying When Pregnant

Tips for Flying When Pregnant
Tips for Flying When Pregnant

It may be for work or to visit family or to take a pre-baby vacation. Whatever the reason, you are likely to find yourself on an airplane at some point while pregnant. Before you fly, check out these 9 tips for flying when pregnant

Check-In With Your Doctor

If you have a low risk of preterm labor, then it is likely safe to fly up until 36 weeks.  However, if you have risk factors, your doctor may advise you to keep your feet on the ground sooner rather than later.  Make sure to talk to your doctor early about what air travel restrictions she recommends for you.

Know Your Airline’s Policy

Airlines really don’t want you going into labor while on their plane.  Therefore, they have policies about letting women who are close to their due date fly.  If you have low risk factors, your doctor may be okay with you flying up until 36 weeks, but the airline may have a different policy.  These policies also differ depending on if you are flying domestic or international.  Here are some of the policies for the major airlines.

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Stay Hydrated

The air in planes is dryer than normal; therefore, you are likely to get dehydrated more quickly.  This can happen to anyone, but when you are pregnant, being dehydrated can increase Braxton Hicks contractions, so it’s important to drink plenty of water.  Airplanes do generally provide drinks while you are on the flight.  However, turbulence can prevent service or drastically delay it.  Be prepared and grab a big bottle of water before boarding.  If you don’t want to spend the money to purchase airport water, you can bring an empty bottle through security.  Many airports have water bottle filling stations, or some restaurants will fill a bottle for you.

Plan for Lots of Bathroom Breaks

The more pregnant you are, the more baby is pushing on your bladder. You also have more blood volume during pregnancy which means more for your kidneys to filter out.  Therefore, you will likely need lots of trips to the bathroom.  This doesn’t mean you can’t still snag the window seat, but make sure you are okay with asking the person in the aisle to get up.  You may decide you are better off in the aisle.

Move Around Frequently

When you are pregnant, you have an increased risk of blood clots in your legs, also known as Deep Vein Thromboembolism (DVT). Moving around decreases your risk and sitting for many hours increases that risk.  Therefore, you want to get up and walk around at least once every hour while flying.  Getting up to go to the bathroom counts for you hourly walk.  You can also consider wearing compression socks.  These help to keep blood flowing to help prevent DVTs, and they are also helpful for keeping the annoying foot swelling at bay.  When you can’t get up and walk around (i.e. lots of turbulence), flex your feet up and down to keep the blood flowing through your legs.

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Know it May be Harder to Breathe

The air at 30,000 feet is thinner with less oxygen than the air at sea level.  When you aren’t pregnant, you probably don’t notice any difference when sitting on an airplane.  However, when you’re pregnant, it’s already harder to breath because baby is squishing your lungs.  Therefore, you notice the oxygen deficit more.  This isn’t going to cause harm, but it may make flying later in pregnancy somewhat uncomfortable.

Know the Signs of Labor

Dehydration can increase the frequency and intensity of Braxton Hicks contractions which isn’t harmful but can be uncomfortable.  However, the biggest risk with flying is that you will go into preterm labor.  Therefore, it’s important to know the difference between Braxton Hicks and actual labor.

Get TSA Precheck

Taking your shoes and sweatshirt off for security is a pain when you aren’t pregnant.  When you are pregnant you want to avoid having to remove and put back on your shoes if at all possible.  TSA precheck allows you to leave your shoes and light jacket on when going through security.  It also means a shorter line.

Dress Comfortably

This isn’t the time for high heels and pants with a real waist.  Think stretchy tent dresses and leggings and supportive shoes.  Sitting in the cramped airplane seats is uncomfortable enough while pregnant, you don’t want to add to it by wearing restrictive clothing. This is definitely one thing I learned from my mistakes with. To see what else I learned, check out this post.

If you have flown while pregnant, do you have any tips I didn’t mention? If so, share them in the comments.

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Tips for Flying When Pregnant
Tips for Flying When Pregnant

5 Flying While Pregnant Mistakes to Avoid

5 Flying While Pregnant Mistakes to Avoid

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

5 Flying While Pregnant Mistakes to Avoid

When you are pregnant, comfort is key. However, flying and comfort don’t often belong in the same sentence. If you find yourself flying while pregnant, make sure to avoid these 5 mistakes that I learned about the hard way.

1. Taking the Window Seat

The window seat may be prime airplane real estate for some people.  However, when you are pregnant, you will want to rethink your seating choices.  I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that pregnancy makes you pee a lot.  If you have a window seat and need to ask multiple people to move every time you go to the bathroom, you are likely to be tempted to hold it which can lead to a UTI.  If you are sitting on the edge it’s easy to get up whenever you need to.

2. Staying in Your Seat

When you are pregnant, you are more prone to DVTs which are blood clots in your legs.  Anyone can get DVTs, but pregnant women have a higher risk, and the risk increases when you are on an airplane and sitting for an extended period.  Therefore, you want to get up periodically and walk around – a bathroom trip counts. This is another situation where having an aisle seat comes in handy.  It’s generally a good idea to try and get up once every hour to 1.5 hours.  Other things you can do to decrease your risk are to wear compression socks that reach your knees and flex your ankles while sitting.

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3. Skipping the Snacks and Water

Pregnancy requires more calories than normal, and you want to make sure you eat plenty while traveling.  If you have short flights, this isn’t as big of a problem, but if you have a long flight, you want to make sure you plan to snack.  These can be snacks you brought from home (I really like these protein bars) or snacks you buy on the plane.  Try to find snacks that incorporate some protein and aren’t just carbs. 

You also don’t want to turn down an offer of water.  It may seem like a good way to not have to go to the bathroom so often, but you are more prone to dehydration while flying because there is less water in the air.  If you get dehydrated while pregnant, that can increase the risk of Braxton Hicks contractions and general discomfort.  I recommend purchasing a large bottle of water prior to boarding and then accept all offers for water while on the plane.  If you cringe at the price of airport water, you can bring an empty bottle and fill it at a water fountain.

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4. Flying During Late Pregnancy

Flying during the first and second trimesters isn’t too much of a problem.  However, things get a little more difficult during the third trimester.  Check with your doctor, but in general it’s okay to fly up until you reach 36 weeks.  However, the closer you get to that point, the more uncomfortable flying will become.  There are the obvious issues with feeling huge and being cramped in a tiny seat.  However, there is also the problem of catching your breath.  When flying you are at a high altitude which has less oxygen.  Therefore, it’s a little harder to breath for everyone.  Most people won’t notice, but when you are pregnant, it can be hard to catch your breath even at sea level.  When flying it becomes much more noticeable.  I continued to fly until 32 weeks, and the last couple of trips I took were really uncomfortable because I couldn’t catch my breath.

5. Wearing Stylish Clothes

It seems like travelers are either in the ‘leggings’ camp or the ‘must look good because everyone will see me’ camp.  When you are pregnant and flying, stick to leggings.  You don’t need uncomfortable pants pushing on your already uncomfortable belly and you don’t need nice shoes making your already sore feet worse.  The chances of seeing someone you know are quite slim, so travel in comfort.  If you have to go straight to a work function or other event where you need to look nice, bring a change of clothes in your carry-on to change into when you get off the plane.

Get all my tips for what you should do while flying during pregnancy here.

What mistakes have you made flying while pregnant?  Let me know in the comments.

5 Flying While Pregnant Mistakes to Avoid

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.