The Best Compression Socks for Pregnancy
If you’re pregnant, you’ve probably been told to “relax and put your feet up” on countless occasions—after all, your body is being put through the ringer, so if anyone deserves to put their feet up, it’s you! But when you’re not able to rest, recover and reduce the swelling that commonly plagues the legs and ankles of moms-to-be, try wearing a pair of pregnancy compression socks.
Compression socks are an inexpensive and easy way to avoid or reduce swelling, blood clots and venous disorders—all things you’re at higher risk of during pregnancy—by “gently squeezing the limbs to help circulate blood throughout the body,” says Loren Ball, WHNP, a nurse practitioner in women’s health for Hoboken University Medical Center. Curious to learn more about how to find relief, and which are the best compression socks for pregnancy? Keep reading for the lowdown, then shop our top picks.
No one said growing a new human was easy. Pregnancy can come with a slew of uncomfortable symptoms and conditions—but the gentle pressure of compression socks can help with a number of them!
Reduces swelling and chance of blood clots
During pregnancy, your body produces about 50 percent more blood and fluids to support baby’s development—and while those fluids usually disperse proportionately, they can pool in certain areas like the legs, feet, ankles and fingers, leading to uncomfortable swelling. Moreover, your expanding uterus can put pressure on your veins and constrict blood flow to your heart, limiting circulation and increasing the swelling.
This decreased circulation, as well as a natural spike in estrogen, also increase the odds of developing a blood clot. “In pregnancy, women are five times more likely to develop or experience a blood clot compared with women who are not pregnant,” Bell says. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are blood clots that commonly occur in the deep veins of your lower extremities, according to Ankita Sahni, MD, a family medicine doctor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. In the event that a DVT is not mediated, it can break off and travel to the lung, causing a blockage in its tissue. What can come next is a pulmonary embolism (PE), a potentially life-threatening issue.
The good news? Snugly fitted compression socks, which usually extend to just below the knee and provide gradient pressure along the length of the calf, effectively reduce swelling and the risk of blood clots, as they “aid in circulation and blood flow,” says Kristin Mallon, CNM, MS, RNC-OB, a board-certified nurse midwife for Integrative Obstetrics in Jersey City. What’s more, she adds, “since leg cramps are associated with poor circulation, compression socks can also aid in alleviating leg cramps in some patients.”
Eases varicose vein pain
Varicose veins can also develop as your pregnancy progresses, which can bring about pain, aching, itchiness and burning sensations that are incredibly irritating and relentless. Compression socks can help by moving blood away from the legs and up toward the heart. “If a patient has varicose veins, compression socks can be great in preventing them from getting worse, and decreasing the discomfort associated with varicose veins,” says Mallon.
While compression socks can offer a bunch of benefits during pregnancy, experts warn against using compression stockings. For one, they place constriction on your belly, especially as you transition from the second to third trimester; plus, compression pantyhose worn for more than eight hours over several days can “increase the risks for yeast and bacterial vaginosis,” Mallon says, which are already common in pregnancy when hormones are surging. If you need to dress up a bit more for work or events, consider a pair of maternity leggings with compression support, but take them off as soon as you get home to give your body a break.
So when should you start to slip on those compression socks in pregnancy? Well, whenever swelling becomes more prominent. “Usually during the second and third trimester, women will start to notice spider veins and swelling, which can be uncomfortable,” says Ball. Also, if you’ve been confined to bed rest, immobile for more than four days or have been diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, Sahni recommends wearing compression socks.
Whether your job requires you to be on your feet or even stationary for the majority of the day, using compression socks is a great way to reduce swelling or improve circulation. They’re also good if you’re planning to travel while pregnant. Along with advising her patients to move around, stand and flex their ankles and feet on flights, Ball says “it’s extremely important to wear compression socks, because of the significantly higher risks of blood clots due to limited activity.”
All three of the experts we chatted with say that compression socks work best when you put them on first thing in the morning, even before getting out of bed. At that point, swelling is minimal, because the body has been lying flat throughout the night, so it’s much easier to put the socks on. “Many women put them on toward the end of the day when they realize that there is swelling in their legs, but if they are worn in the morning, this can prevent the swelling instead of treating it,” Ball recommends. Compression socks are more efficient when they’re used proactively versus reactively.
Even though pregnancy compression socks can be worn all day—provided they’re comfortable and not causing any numbness or skin breakdown (which happens when the pressure is too great and blood flow to the skin is temporarily cut off)—Mallon encourages her patients to slide the socks off when they go to bed at night. “Usually after 12 hours, it’s good to take them off,” she says. “I don’t recommend wearing them more than that.”
Keeping the following factors in mind will go a long way in making sure your pregnancy compression socks are the ones you’ll want to grab from your drawer to start the day.
The perfect fit
Finding compression socks for pregnancy that fit your feet and calves is critical to ensure you’re getting that snug and supportive feel. When looking at sizing guides, come prepared with your regular shoe size and your calf measurements (the circumference of your calves, in inches). Knowing these two numbers will help you navigate the brand’s sizing scale, which usually goes from small to large, or extra small to extra large if the brand has extended sizing. When you receive your socks, you’ll know that they fit correctly when your toes line up with the toe cap and your heels fit into the heel cup. Once you put them on, smooth the fabric around your leg to eliminate bunching or sagging and ensure a secure but never stifling fit. Sanhi recommends socks that extend to just below the knee, noting that they shouldn’t “cover up the back of the knees, as this could cut off circulation.”
The right fabric
We’ve all worn uncomfortable, scratchy and way-too-warm socks before, but when you’re pregnant, these bothersome sensations can prove almost torturous. That’s why you’ll want to find compression socks crafted from soft, lightweight, stretchy and breathable fabrics. Nylon and spandex can be found in nearly every compression sock, as they provide the necessary elasticity and stretch to fit snugly and contour the legs. Cotton, of course, is what you’re used to wearing on a daily basis, so compression socks featuring cotton or cotton blends will feel familiar and very comfortable. Bamboo is an even more intriguing option to consider, because it’s naturally moisture-wicking (so long sweat!) and breathable. It also has antimicrobial properties, so not only will your feet feel good, they’ll smell good too. There are also merino wool choices, which actually help to cool your feet if you’re somewhere hot, and keep your toes toasty warm if you’re somewhere cold.
The most therapeutic compression
We couldn’t name the best compression socks for pregnancy without addressing compression itself. There are many different levels of compression, ranging from low to high. The intensity of compression is measured in mm Hg (which stands for millimeters of mercury), and as the number goes up, so does the pressure.
For simplicity purposes, Sahni defines compression from light to firm, with the following therapeutic benefits for pregnancy:
- Light compression: 8-15 mm Hg. Helps improve circulation and provide relief to fatigued legs.
- Moderate compression: 15-20 mm Hg and 20-30 mm Hg. Helps improve circulation, prevent DVT and decrease swelling.
- Firm compression: Above 30 mm Hg. Helps improve circulation, prevent DVT and decrease moderate to severe swelling.
Moderate compression in the range of 20-30 mm Hg is typically what Sahni suggests for her pregnant patients: “This level of compression is comfortable and effective at preventing DVTs.” She goes on to say that firm compression is certainly an option for moms-to-be with more advanced swelling, pain or discomfort, but will often require a prescription. Prescription socks that can be found in pharmacy or medical supply stores offer the greatest levels of compression and circulation assistance and can go all the way up the leg (hello thigh-highs!).
Sahni’s best advice? “Look for socks that say ‘gradual compression’ and have the compression gradient listed on the packaging.” Just like the name suggests, graduated compression means that the pressure will be proportionate to where it’s needed the most: tightest at the ankles or the bottom of the sock and loosest at the knee or top of the sock.
Our panel of experts all shared their favorite brands to help us round up the best compression socks for pregnancy.
At 15-20mmHg, these socks from Bombas offer a moderate amount of compression that’s comfortable to wear, whether you’re just hanging out on the couch or going on a walk to get the blood flowing. The socks also feature extra durable yarn that holds up after multiple washes, which comes in clutch if these become your go-to socks for the duration of your pregnancy and beyond. Sanhi recommends moms wear their compression socks “for up to six weeks postpartum due to the increased risk for edema and DVTs.”
- Seamless, blister-thwarting toes
- Y-stitched heel and stay-up technology provides extra comfort and security
- For every sock purchase made, Bombas donates a pair to homeless shelters
- If you’re between sizes, Bombas recommends sizing up (you just don’t want them too loose, or it might affect the compression)
- Pricier per pair
These 15-20mmHg compression socks are perfect for daily use, whether you’ve got a lot or little to accomplish. The knee-high socks are designed to minimize uncomfortable swelling in your calves, ankles and feet, and with an infusion of silver, they also block bacteria growth and odor—stinky feet are a non-issue here! Our favorite part? Belly Bandit’s bundling makes dressing comfortably and stylishly (peep that scalloped detail on the sock cuff) a total piece of cake.
- Easy try-on instructions provide “how to wear” tab
- Minimalist colorway options (black, charcoal-black and heather grey-white)
- Only offered in two sizes, based on shoe size only
Storq bills these 15-20mmHg graduated compression socks as the “firm but gentle hug your legs and feet need,” and who are we to argue? The ribbed nylon spandex blend is soft and smooth to the touch, and the sock extends to just under or above the knee. The small/medium size fits shoe sizes 5-8 and the large/extra large fits shoe sizes 9-10. And those colors are just too cute! No shame in your pregnancy compression sock game!
- 93 percent nylon means these socks have serious stretch to them
- Colorways—blue, pink, white and tan—give vintage varsity vibes
- Useful for all stages of pregnancy, postpartum and beyond
- Hand-washing and air drying is ideal to extend the life of the socks
- L/XL size sells out quickly
Experts are proponents of staying active in pregnancy as a way of reducing swelling, keeping circulation regular, preventing blood clots, improving one’s mood and feeling better and more energized overall. So do you need stronger compression socks for pregnancy workouts that are more aerobic than a simple stroll? Well, it all depends on your everyday compression preference. You may have to bump up the compression grade if you’re using a light 8-15 mm Hg pressure on the regular. But if you’re already wearing a compression sock at the moderate 20-30 mm Hg level, you shouldn’t have to adjust your compression intensity, says Sahni. PRO Compression’s knee-high sock offers true graduated compression, at 20-30 mm Hg. Not only do these performance-oriented socks increase blood flow, they also feature an advanced design that supports muscles and tendons, as well as a unique blend of materials that wick moisture and keep your feet feeling fresh from start to finish.
- Available in XS-XL, with separate wide-calf versions to boot
- Tons of vibrant and dynamic colorways
- Pricier per pair
If you’re wearing compression socks throughout pregnancy, why not make it fashion? These punchy ombre pairs work their magic by gently squeezing the legs to promote blood flow from your legs and feet back toward your heart. The result is much better circulation and relief from discomfort associated with minor or moderate swelling, chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and other venous conditions. Add to that some incredibly moisture-wicking nylon that’s lightweight, flexible and breathable and a super soft toe and terry cloth cushioning at the heel, and you’ve got some maternity compression socks that are just as therapeutic as they are playful.
- Silver antimicrobial eliminates odor
- Offered in sizes S-L, with wide-width options
- Some customers say that their stretch goes beyond the knee, which can be much less comfortable than shorter socks
- Each pair is individually hand dyed, so the brand recommends washing 1-2X before use (so dye can set in)
Bold prints and bright colors can be a fun way to spice up your pregnancy wardrobe, but sometimes a classy, neutral palette is what you need. Wellow, a newcomer brand in the compression sock space, will easily become a pregnant mama’s gestational go-to. These subtle pregnancy compression socks—offered in a 3-pack of neutrals (in white, ivory, blue and camel colorways)—are designed to reduce swelling in the feet and legs and curb the chance of blood clots and spider veins. The products are created using WellowFit, a specialized and original compression range of 18-25 mmHg that gently wraps around feet, ankles and legs to provide the support that stimulates circulation without feeling tight. And that 76 percent bamboo fabric composition? Well, it provides unparalleled softness, durability, moisture-wicking and natural antimicrobial properties. We’re obsessed!
- Available in sizes S-XL
- Four-way stretch makes it easy to slide over your calves and stretch all the way up to your knees
- Plenty of other neutral options
- Hand-wash or machine-wash in cold water on the gentle cycle, as bamboo is very delicate
- Pricier option
Kindred Bravely is a brand that puts mama’s wellness and comfort above all else, so it makes sense that they’d put their best foot forward in the compression sock world too. These moderate to high-level (20-30mmHg) graduated compression socks feature a soft, cushioned sole and promise to reduce soreness and alleviate cramps, all while increasing comfort—so you can live your best pregnant life and power through each day with as minimal aches and pains as possible. The convenient two-pack brings the price down to $15 per pair—our least expensive option on this list!
- Premium bamboo fabric is moisture-wicking, super soft and odor-reducing
- Great compression level for post-labor
- Challenging to put on, according to some consumers, especially as pregnancy progresses and the belly gets bigger
- One-size-fits-most means they might run too big or too small
About the experts:
Loren Ball, WHNP, is a women’s health nurse practitioner working in Labor and Delivery at Hoboken University Medical Center. She graduated from Boston College in 2016 and worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery for three years. She then earned her master’s from the University of Pennsylvania in 2019 and has been practicing both inpatient and outpatient as a nurse practitioner for three years.
Kristin Mallon, CNM, MS, RNC-OB, is a board-certified nurse midwife, breast health expert, published author and a mother of four. She works in private practice in New Jersey with a focus on pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum year.
Ankita Sahni, MD, is a family medicine physician with a vested interest in nutrition and integrative medicine. She’s currently training at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center under the Department of Family and Community Medicine in El Paso, Texas.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.