By Alecsa Stewart
Healthy blood circulation is always important, preventing the risk of edema, blood clots, and other complications. However, during certain times in our lives, like when pregnant, we can automatically have a harder time maintaining healthy, normal blood flow, especially to the lower parts of the body. This is when it becomes utterly important to support healthy circulation.
Why Healthy Pregnancy Circulation is Important
How can you maintain healthy circulation during your pregnancy and why does this matter? Understanding and treating the causes of poor circulation during pregnancy can help avoid conditions such as edema and hypertension. By using compression socks and following our easy tips below, you can ensure that your lower limbs have a much easier time during those particular months in your life.
Read on to find out:
- Why it’s important to keep your blood flowing correctly during pregnancy;
- What are the causes of pregnancy circulation problems;
- Signs of poor circulation when pregnant;
- Top 5 tips to maintain healthy blood circulation when you’re pregnant.
Why Does Healthy Blood Flow Matter?
In general, having a healthy blood circulation is very important for your overall health, regardless of age or condition. Blood transports oxygen throughout your body, ensuring that all your organs work optimally and that you are alert and doing as well as possible. Moreover, bad circulation can have a negative impact on your immune system. It can lead to swelling and feelings of discomfort, especially in the lower legs. And it can even cause bigger issues, such as edema and blood clots.
When you’re pregnant, your body is working harder than ever to keep both you and your baby safe and healthy. This may mean redirecting blood flow or even developing venous insufficiency, as can be the case with a large number of expecting mothers. Specifically, this means that blood flows out from your heart, but cannot flow back as it normally should.
Both to ensure that you and your baby are healthy and happy, and to prevent complications such as blood clots that could become bigger threats, it’s of paramount importance to optimize your blood circulation during pregnancy.
What Causes Bad Circulation During Pregnancy?
You may be wondering why bad circulation becomes more of an issue during pregnancy. Firstly, it helps to understand how the healthy circulatory system works. Your heart pumps blood out to the organs through the arteries, pushing through oxygen that makes your body work as it should when healthy. Blood then travels back to the heart through the veins, and the circuit begins again.
During pregnancy, as the baby grows, the heart needs to pump more and more blood to support the uterus, where the baby is developing. This then leads to bigger blood volume overall in your body. Cardiac output (the volume of blood pumped into your body) can increase by 30 to 50% for pregnant women. And, as this cardiac output increases, your resting heart rate also increases, from c. 70 beats per minute before pregnancy to c. 90 beats per minute during.
In addition to the increase in blood volume which can get trapped in the circulatory system if anything doesn’t go completely as it should, pregnant women also have a different mix of hormones in their body. These can also impact the blood pressure, causing blood flow to not go anywhere as smoothly as it should.
5 Signs of Poor Circulation When Pregnant
Although poor circulation can lead to complications and feelings of discomfort, it may not be obvious that that’s what’s causing your condition. You may also be able to catch some signs of poor circulation before ending up suffering more. Here are the top signs that you’re suffering from poor blood circulation.
Also referred to as leg swelling, edema is caused by fluid trapped in the body’s tissues. During pregnancy, you may notice your feet and ankles swelling because of the blood pooling in those areas and not moving throughout your body as it should.
Edema becomes more pronounced from the fifth month of pregnancy and can create real discomfort. It is all the more evident when you sit or stand for longer periods of time without moving. To combat it, compression socks are a great help, as well as elevating your legs as often as you can.
If the swelling gets worse and becomes accompanied by pain, redness and heat, you should see a doctor as this could be a sign of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT can develop because of blood clots and can be quite severe, so needs to be addressed immediately.
This serious disorder refers to a blood pressure condition that can affect all organs in a woman’s body. If you have dangerously high blood pressure, you could also notice the following symptoms of pre-eclampsia during your pregnancy:
- Swelling of the face or hands;
- Persistent headaches;
- Change to your eyesight, including seeing spots;
- Pain in the upper abdomen or shoulder;
- Nausea and vomiting during the second half of the pregnancy;
- Sudden weight gain beyond what you would normally expect;
- Difficulty breathing.
All of these symptoms can point to pre-eclampsia and can be indicators that you’re suffering from poor circulation.
Hypertension means high blood pressure. You may or may not have had your blood pressure monitored by a doctor previous to becoming pregnant, but it is good practice to do so when you’re expecting a baby. This way, your doctor will be able to tell quickly if your blood pressure is becoming too high. This can be a sign of poor circulation and you can review your options at that point.
Feeling tired is common during pregnancy, since your body has so much more work to do than at any time before. But a change in blood flow, during pregnancy, can also lead to feelings of exhaustion. They could be coupled with edema or dizziness or any other of the signs listed here, in which case there will definitely be a circulation connection. Discuss with your doctor right away.
When blood flow is not quite normal, for example not enough oxygen is travelling through to your brain, you could become dizzy. This is a sign of low blood pressure (since the heart isn’t pushing blood around fast enough for the oxygen to reach where it needs to).
Severe dizziness accompanied by headaches should be looked into immediately. Mild symptoms point to the likelihood of poor circulation, so you can start looking into ways to improve your blood flow in that case.
How to Maintain Healthy Blood Circulation When Pregnant
To stay in best shape and have a healthy blood circulation throughout your pregnancy, follow these 5 tips:
Watching what you eat is always important, and even more so when you’re expecting. Ensure you take in a variety of healthy foods, which will help get all your required nutrients, vitamins and minerals. For best impacts on the blood circulation, ensure you have three servings of iron-rich foods per day, which will help keep your red blood cell count up.
Physical activity is very important as you get further along in your pregnancy, even as things slow down and exercise might feel difficult. Make time for something every day, whether it’s a low-intensity workout, a walk outside, or a slow bike ride. The key is to keep the body moving, which in turn will have your blood moving well. Additionally, don’t spend too long sitting down: take regular breaks to stretch your legs and move around, especially when travelling.
There is no point in trying to fit into specific clothes or put yourself in situations where you’ll feel uncomfortable (for example, taking a presentation spot at a conference where you’ll have to stand up for hours on end, instead of contributing via video call). Try and put comfort in first place and wear loose and comfortable clothing that will not restrict your circulation.
Put your feet up.
Literally, elevating your feet helps the blood travel back up the legs, preventing the formation of blood clots and varicose veins. Uncross your legs when sitting or lying down, too. All this will help prevent swelling.
Wear compression socks.
Thanks to the compression from our socks, your blood will keep flowing correctly away from your legs, while you will also enjoy a reduction in aches and pains, inflammation and sluggish feelings. Compression socks are also effective to fight against varicose veins. Especially when you’re travelling or sleeping and you cannot move for longer periods of time, wearing compression socks can make a huge difference and support healthier blood circulation, for a healthier you.
Our circulatory system is essential for the good function of all our organs and therefore for keeping us alive. When you become pregnant, a lot changes within your body and it is likely that these disruptions can affect your blood circulation as well. If you experience the signs of poor circulation during pregnancy that we’ve listed above, it’s not necessarily a cause for immediate concern. In fact, there could be many measures you can take to improve blood flow, including wearing good-quality compression socks.
However, if you have any severe symptoms or concerns, you should always consult with your doctor immediately. As for starting to wear compression socks, although they can be extremely beneficial, you should take care and ease into it gradually, following our guides to make sure you get the best socks for you.