There are lots of well-known discomforts during pregnancy like backaches, nausea, seemingly endless bathroom breaks, and a host of other bodily surprises no one tells you about beforehand. One lesser-discussed but no less uncomfortable side effect of pregnancy is swollen feet and legs. The best compression socks for pregnancy can relieve pain, improve circulation, and provide support for puffy feet, ankles, and legs. Scary Mommy reached out to board-certified OB-GYNs Dr. Megan Gray and Dr. Greg Marchand to learn more about how compression stockings work and what to look for when shopping for the right pair.
Dr. Megan Gray is an OB-GYN at Orlando Health Physician Associates. She is an expert on postpartum care for moms and the "fourth trimester," as the author of The Forgotten Trimester: Navigating Self-Care After Birth. Her expertise includes women’s health topics ranging from labor and delivery to birth control and breastfeeding. She is a mother of two children.
Dr. Greg Marchand is dual board-certified in OB-GYN and Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at The Marchand Institute for Minimally Invasive Surgery. Dr. Marchand was the first in the U.S. to receive the “Master Surgeon” designation from the Surgical Review Corporation for Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery. When he is not in the operating room, Dr. Marchand enjoys chasing around his 9-year-old son.
How Do Compression Socks Work?
Pregnancy puts extra pressure on your veins and your body creates 50% more fluid, according to WebMD. Combined, this can lead to swelling in the feet, ankles, and legs. Dr. Gray explains, “Graduated compression stockings have varying degrees of compression that are most significant at the ankle and slowly decrease upwardly.” This helps move blood back toward the heart and can help reduce swelling.
What Are The Benefits Of Using Compression Stockings In Pregnancy?
Many pregnant people turn to compression hosiery “because they can reduce leg pain, swelling, and varicose vein appearance,” according to Dr. Marchand. He points out they are most helpful “if someone is on their feet a lot.”
As for how long to wear them, he says, “The studies I am aware of showed a benefit after at least 8 hours a day of usage, but there may be more [benefits] for longer usage. There is no known danger, even if they are worn 24 hours a day.” Dr. Gray adds that pregnant people can also use them during air travel to prevent deep vein thrombosis as well.
What To Look For In Pregnancy Compression Socks
Dr. Gray says there is a lack of data to guide recommendations but she suggests someone who is new to graduated compression stockings try starting at a lower level of pressure, which is measured in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg. The higher the mmHg, the stronger the compression. She says “20 to 30 mmHg is what has been used in some studies.” In this case, more isn’t necessarily better. Dr. Marchand adds, “Since medical stockings for [purposes other than pregnancy] are not usually used over 30mmHg, I would definitely stay under that level.”
Both doctors recommended compression socks or hosiery that are thigh-high and Dr. Marchand added, “It is important that the stocking does not cause you pain, that you can still feel your pulse in your feet, and that your feet are not going numb.”
Scroll down to find sweet relief for your swollen, achy feet and legs. Looking for more maternity gear for all the issues no one warned you about? Check out our favorite pregnancy shapewear and birthing balls for your aching back.
1. These Fan-Favorite Compression Stocking Available In 5 Colors
More than 4,000 Amazon shoppers have awarded these opaque compression stockings a perfect five-star rating. They feature a soft-knit nylon and spandex fabric blend and an open toe, and they come in hard-to-find colors like brown and charcoal. With graduated 20-30 mmHg compression, a defined heel, and latex-free silicone grippers at the top band, NuVein Medical Compression Stockings provided “instant relief” according to one pregnant reviewer.
Helpful Review: “These are actually really good compression socks. I've bought others that claim to have compression but end up just being long socks. These are both long, stay up really well in the thigh area, and have proven to reduce swelling in my legs and feet due to pregnancy. I was skeptical at first but have compared it without and I do feel the difference. The socks also seem to be more helpful than just trying to elevate my legs up. [...]”
Available Sizes: Small — 2XL | Available Colors: 5 | Compression Level: 20–30 mmHg
2. A Pair Of Compression Stockings Reviewers Say Are Durable & Comfortable
With 20-30 mmHG graduated compression up the leg, grippy stay-up silicone at the top band, and an open-toe design, Truform Compression Stockings are another Amazon favorite. A defined heel makes putting this pair on a little easier — no figuring out which way they go! This nylon and spandex pair is latex-free and one reviewer noted, “[they] are incredibly durable. I've accidentally machine washed these twice now, and they are no worse for [the] wear.”
Helpful Review: “Wore these today for the first time. I am pregnant and was sitting in a car for 6+ hours so I was worried about circulation and comfort. These took some time to get on but were comfortable ALL DAY in the car, under my jeans, and when we got out, I wasn't sore or stiff at all. Felt the difference immediately. These are very well made and didn't slip, edges didn't roll. Stayed exactly in place all day. Extremely happy with them! Considered sleeping in them...”
Available Sizes: Small — 2XL | Available Colors: 4 | Compression Level: 20–30 mmHg
3. These Over-The-Knee Stockings That Come In Petite Sizes
While these thigh-high compression stockings are only available in black and beige, they stand out for their range of size offerings — including hard-to-find petite sizes. The stockings have a silicone no-slip band to keep them in place and features an open-toe design that works with (most) sandals and keeps your feet drier as well. One reviewer dubbed them the “best thigh high compression socks money can buy.”
Helpful Review: “I needed something that was higher than my knee-high compression socks. Make sure to measure your thighs to get the right fit. The elastic is comfortable enough to wear through my 8-hour work day. Wearing them in the summer is a no-go but they are definitely helpful with my pregnancy swelling!”
Available Sizes: Small — XL, including petite sizes | Available Colors: 1 | Compression Level: 20–30 mmHg
4. This Pair Of Thigh-High Stockings With A Lower Level Of Compression
With a lower level of compression at 15-20 mmHG, invera compression stockings are made with a breathable fabric designed to minimize perspiration. The unique design features a hole near the toe to make them easier to put on and reinforced heel stitching for durability. The color of the stitching at the heel indicates which size the pair is, which is helpful if you end up switching sizes during your pregnancy.
Helpful Review: “These are superb compression stockings—far better than I was given in the hospital [...]. The stockings are sturdy, but the compression is not too much. They wash well, and do not lose their elasticity.
Available Sizes: Small — 3XL | Available Colors: 1 | Compression Level: 15–20 mmHg
5. These Footless Stockings Available In Two Compression Levels
These barely-there over-the-knee stockings are the best footless compression socks because they come in a wide range of sizes, two levels of compression, and two neutral colors (beige and black.) The nylon-spandex material has true graduated compression going up the leg and a silica gel at the top band to keep them from rolling down. Reviewers say they are “a good weight of fabric — not too thin.” The footless style lets you wear a wide range of shoes without them peeking out, too.
Helpful Review: “Had really bad varicose veins during pregnancy and these saved me! If I forgot to put them on in the morning, within minutes I would remember to put these on. They stayed up great and I [got] so [used] to them I didn’t even realize I was wearing them.”
Available Sizes: Small — 3XL | Available Colors: 2 | Compression Level: 15–20 mmHg or 20–30 mmHg
6. These Ultra-Stretchy Compression Socks That Can Withstand Chasing After Kids
Jomi Compression Stockings have the highest percentage of spandex of any of the pairs on this list (30%), which the brand says extends the life of the product. They’re so durable, one pregnant shopper wrote, “I teach kindergarten, so I’m up and down on the floor, chasing kids, etc and they have really held up!” They feature an open-toe, reinforced heel, and no-slip grippers at the top band.
Helpful Review: “Love them! They work perfect! They have helped with my leg swelling dramatically. I even wear them all night long and most of the day. I have very short legs but I still was able to adjust them to fit on just right. Very strong material (they can withstand my acrylic nails)! I am 8 months pregnant and the discomfort in my legs swelling will start even after a few minutes sitting in a chair. With these compression stockings I can sit comfortably without that immediate swelling. [...]”
Available Sizes: Small — 2XL | Available Colors: 2 | Compression Level: 20–30 mmHG
Also Nice: Some Cozy Pregnancy Compression Leggings That Support Your Bump
If you’re looking for opaque pregnancy leggings with built-in compression, this pair offers a versatile option for yoga, exercise, and lounging. These seamless leggings are itch-free with a 14% level of spandex to offer mild to medium compression, belly support, and leg pain relief. One buyer said, “There is enough compression to hold them in place for miles and miles.”
Helpful Review: “These are perfect, they hold everything in place without being "tight". I did receive the correct color and size, and followed the other reviews and the sizing chart to order (which was my regular size). I like that it doesn't create any extra bumps or lumps, everything is just smoothed over and held in place... it feels quite supportive.”
Available Sizes: Small — XL | Available Colors: 2 | Compression Level: Mild to medium
Megan Gray, MD, is an OB-GYN at Orlando Health Physician Associates.
Greg Marchand, MD, is dual board-certified in OB-GYN and Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at The Marchand Institute for Minimally Invasive Surgery.
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