Pregnancy: why wear compression stockings? Which one to choose?

The expert: Thaïs Minier, midwife

Because they compress the leg and promote blood flow, compression stockings are essential for anyone suffering from venous insufficiency. They are recommended during pregnancy to reduce the risk of thromboembolic events, especially phlebitis. But how do you choose your compression stockings? Can we sleep with this? Do they have to be prescribed by a doctor? Explanations.

What are compression stockings or tights used for? What are their benefits?

Prevent thrombosis, phlebitis and other varicose veins

“Due to the pressure they exert on the legs, compression stockings serve to prevent thromboembolic risks during pregnancy and after childbirth”, explains Thaïs Minier, a liberal midwife in Lille. Certain pregnancy-related hormones that persist in the postpartum period after childbirth cause the veins to dilate and reduce venous return. There is then a greater risk of seeing the appearance Varicose veins, even phlebitis or pulmonary embolismB. by the formation of a blood clot.

It is therefore recommended that pregnant women wear compression stockings from the start of pregnancy. “Women rarely wear compression stockings or pantyhose from the beginning of pregnancy, usually only a little later, when the belly is growing. The pregnancy however, is an indication to wear themas well as long flights or surgeries,” says the midwife. The wearing of stockings is then indicated for up to six weeks after the birth.

There are 3 “classes” of compression that define the pressure exerted by compression stockings. The French standard (AFNOR) requires manufacturers to provide devices that, when worn, maintain a certain level of pressure within a certain interval.

for class 1, the pressure must be between 10 and 15 mmHg (expressed in millimeters of mercury). This is the lowest compression class, which is being prescribed less and less by doctors who prefer class 2.

2nd grade exerts a pressure between 15 and 20 mmHg. It is recommended for the main circulatory disorders in women and men of all ages: varicose veins, pregnancy, long journeys, after surgery…

Class 3 works with a pressure between 20 and 36 mmHg and is prescribed for relatively severe venous disorders: varicose veins larger than 3 mm, edema and venous thrombosis.

It is important to consult your doctor before deciding on a compression class.

Is it better to wear stockings, knee socks or compression tights?

The midwife recommends that the pregnant women she visits for the consultation wear stockings or tights as soon as possible, in particular to relieve the feeling of heaviness in the legs: « I prescribe you two pairs of stockings or tights, which are covered by health insurance are very good for the basic model. You can change and wash them more easily, preferably by hand, so they keep their outfit because they are made of a stretchy material.”

Thaïs Minier also advises women to choose pantyhose instead of stockings. “The stockings hit mid-thigh and can be uncomfortable. Tights enclose women to the waist and even to the stomach, which is not uncomfortable, and put pressure on the varicose veins of the thighs and improve blood circulation in the lower limbs. They are easy to wear, for example with a dress. And nowadays manufacturers make nice models.” she argues.

On the other hand, it does not prescribe no compression stockings : “They are not very suitable for pregnant women who need to have fully curved legs from the ankles to the thighs from bottom to top to get the desired effect on their venous return and therefore blood flow.”

Where to order compression stockings?

To order compression stockings, you need to go to a pharmacy or a specialty store. The best and Get there in the morning before you get swollen legsbecause different measurements have to be taken to have the right stocking size. “There is the circumference of the ankle, the thigh for stockings and the height of the leg”, explains Thais Minier. The compression stockings or tights will then be sent to you directly or to order, depending on availability.

Putting on compression stockings: the technique

Then comes the practice phase, the moment when you have to put them on! “It all starts with a helping hand”She recognizes the midwife. First of all, you have to have legs at rest, lying down, for fifteen minutes before putting them on. Then you can turn them around to more easily attach them to the end of your feet and pull them up along one leg and then the second, turn them over as you go. The pressure exerted by the fabric makes the exercise a bit difficult, but not impossible with practice.

When to wear compression stockings? Can we sleep with this?

Compression stockings or tights should preferably be worn during the day as soon as you get up. “Pregnancy is an indication for wearing compression stockings or tights, so you have to do it Wear them as soon as you get up for an effective effect on venous return when walking and before legs swell” says the midwife.

At night, when we lie down, they are not necessarily of interest. This also allows them to be removed to breathe a little. Pregnant women have a lower risk of increasing the volume of their lower limbs when lying down. It’s best to elevate your legs with a pillow to help gravity.

What are the contraindications for wearing compression stockings or tights?

Four contraindications

Medical fixation is contraindicated in some cases. This concerns:

– People who suffer from it arteritisor a narrowing of the diameter of the arteries of the legs;

people who suffer from it loss of feeling in the feet and legs, called neuropathy;

– People who suffer from it untreated heart failure.

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