After four pregnancies in five years, one of them with 13 pounds worth of twins, I am unfortunately an expert in pregnancy-induced varicose veins and consequently, the purchase of maternity compression hosiery. This particular pregnancy, my legs start throbbing as soon as I stand up in the morning and throb until I squeeze them into a pair of these tights. After my last pregnancy, I had full-on surgery to remove a few of the veins that were exceptionally painful and unsightly, but the veins are worse this time around than ever before. My hard-earned advice? Read this posting and buy yourself a pair of these tights preventively, even if you have absolutely no signs of vein-related problems and you have no intention of giving birth to five babies in five years (a very civilized decision, by the way). I didn’t wear these tights during my first pregnancy and only started to wear them once I experienced pain late in my second pregnancy. That was my mistake, the veins were already stretched out by then. Of women who give birth, approximately 30% of first time pregnancies and 55% of women with previous pregnancies develop varicose veins. Wearing these tights a few times a week can only help and hey, your body is going to hell anyway, why not do what you can to give it a little help? Compression hosiery is not comfortable and not generally attractive (more on that below), but really does make a difference in the long term.
So, now that I’ve given you my two cents, which compression stockings should you buy? You may, of course, walk into a surgical supply store and purchase compression tights identical to those your grandmother wore in the 1970′s. But that is no longer necessary, as there are designers out there designing compression tights that are actually somewhat fashion forward. Not all of these designers, however, make Maternity-Specific Compression Stockings. Here is my down and dirty list of what to consider before you make your purchase.
1. Compression. Compression hosiery is available in graduated support levels, starting at 8-15 mm/Hg and topping out at 40-50 mm/Hg (you usually need a prescription for the highest support levels). When you are deciding what to buy, make sure you look for a specific support level in the product description. Stores like a Pea in the Pod and Motherhood Maternity sell “maternity support stockings” with no attached support level. These are not compression stockings, they are regular old stockings with a fancy name and a higher price. Start out with the lowest level of support if you don’t already have varicose veins and increase the support level if you do develop a problem.
2. Pantyhose or Tights? Make sure you know what you are buying. Compression stockings are available in both sheer and opaque styles. As the support level you need grows higher, you’ll be unable to purchase sheer hosiery and you’ll have to go with opaques. That is obviously not at all appealing when it comes to buying nude-colored stockings, as opaque, nude-colored tights are just not an attractive look. But if Kate Middleton can make it work under global media scrutiny, so can you.
3. Full-Length or Socks? You don’t necessarily need to buy full-length tights. Compression stockings are available in the knee-high sock styles and in thigh-high styles. It’s really up to you. I have the worst vein problems in my upper thighs, so I choose to wear tights. If you do not choose to buy tights, you’ll have a wider selection of prices and textures to pick from, as you will not need to buy maternity-specific hosiery. Do NOT buy maternity compression stockings without feet, you’ll be defeating the purpose of wearing them in the first place. The point of these stockings is to concentrate all of the compression in your ankles and then to gradually lessen it as the stocking moves up your leg.
4. Price. Compression stockings are not inexpensive and be prepared to spend at least USD $50 on a high-quality pair. The higher the level of support, the more you will pay for your stockings. If you wear them every day, they should last you three to six months. Once they become easy to put on, you should replace them. Under no circumstances should your compression tights pull on easily.
Italian designer Solidea is currently my favorite among the pack, as their tights are relatively stylish, not ridiculously priced, and the maternity selection is decent. The
Solidea Wonder Maman Stockings come in both sheer and opaque styles. The Maman 140 style offers firm compression of 18-21 mm/Hg, while the Maman 70 style offers moderate compression at 12-15mm/Hg.
Jobst is a more well-known and established, but less style-conscious maker of compression tights. Jobst Maternity Compression Stockings come in a wider array of colors and textures, but are a good bit more expensive.
Sigvaris and Juzo also make style-minded, maternity-specific compression hosiery, but the prices are usually quite high. Amazon has a great selection of these brands and has the best prices. All of the links above lead to Amazon. Take the time to sift through the offerings and find the best price for the texture, color, and support you are looking for. You’ll be surprised at how varied the prices are.