Is the thought of having stretch marks making you feel uncomfortable?
Unfortunately, in today's glam world, having a healthy pregnancy is not enough. Women are expected to look their best irrespective of the miracle they are already doing by creating an entire new human within themselves.
Remember, you have the right to feel how you want to. Do not let anybody body shame you.
There are women who adorn stretch marks with pride, after all it is a souvenir for the effort your body has put - in making your precious little one.
But again, it is your body and if you feel that stretch marks are not going to make you happy then read this simple but effective guide which will give you an insight and an actionable plan. We'll cover:
▶️ Risk Factors
Ready? Let’s begin.
First, lets accept the bitter truth.
YOU MAY NOT BE ABLE TO COMPLETELY PREVENT STRETCH MARKS. Now, I don't know if there is any heaven-sent extremely lucky woman with an awesome set of genes and impeccable lifestyle who was able to escape pregnancy without a scratch of stretch mark on her, but, otherwise, let's accept the fact that we all end up having those pride stripes on us.
What are stretch marks?
A stretch mark is a type of scar - narrow, streak-like lines - that develops when our skin stretches or shrinks quickly. The abrupt change causes the collagen and elastin, which support our skin, to rupture. As the skin heals, stretch marks may appear.
They are common in pregnancy with an estimated 50 to 90% occurrence.
Why do stretch marks occur?
I want you to remember that stretch marks pose no risk at all to mother or baby, the only discomfort that you can have is itching, and appearance.
Stretch marks occur when the body expands faster than the skin covering it, due to this the skin tears. The resulting scar is the stretch mark.
What causes Pregnancy Stretch Marks?
👉 First, there is the physical stretch of the skin that occurs in pregnancy due to rapid weight gain. While the skin adapts to continuous movement by expanding and contracting, during these periods the skin has insufficient time to adjust.
👉 Second, which is still a subject of debate among experts, involves the priming of the skin by increased levels of hormones in pregnancy. Together, these hormones attract more water into the skin, which relaxes the bonds between collagen fibres. This makes it easier for the skin to tear when it is stretched and for stretch marks to form.
Common areas affected with Stretch Marks
Most women develop stretch marks on their abdomen during pregnancy, however, it is also common to get them on the breasts, thighs, hips, lower back, and buttocks. While they can appear anywhere on the body, they are most likely to appear in places where large amounts of fat are stored.
Stages of Stretch Marks during Pregnancy
Stage 1: Early stretch marks will appear pink in color, and may also be itchy. The skin immediately around the stretch marks may also look ‘flattened’ and ‘thin’.
Stage 2: Gradually, the stretch marks will enlarge in length and width and become a reddish or purple color.
Stage 3: Once the stretch marks have matured, they lose their reddish/pink hue. In the months after pregnancy, they will start to fade and become pale white or silver. They may also appear slightly depressed and irregular in shape or length.
How to prevent stretch marks?
The best way to prevent stretch marks is to ensure that the skin maintains its maximum elasticity throughout pregnancy. This is achieved by keeping skin well-hydrated and supple at all times.
Collagen and elastin fibres in the skin are necessary to keep rapidly growing skin taut, and the stronger they are, the less likely they are to break and leave resulting stretch marks. It, therefore, makes sense to eat foods that are rich in Vitamin E and C, zinc and silica, which help to form collagen. Vitamin C, in particular, is an important antioxidant that helps protect tissue from damage. Vitamins B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (Niacin) are also said to help promote and maintain healthy skin.
Drinking sufficient water is essential in order to help strengthen and renew your skin. It helps to keep your skin hydrated and soft. Soft skin doesn’t tend to develop stretch marks as much as dry skin does. Drinking caffeinated beverages, like coffee, may actually increase your risk of developing stretch marks. If you drink coffee, make sure you’re balancing out your fluid intake with plenty of water, herbal tea, and other caffeine-free fluids.
In addition to boosting energy levels, reducing mood swings, improving sleep patterns and enhancing one’s overall self-image, exercise can help prevent stretch marks too . Exercise improves circulation, which keeps the skin elastic and more able to stretch as it grows. This improved circulation also reduces the possibility of varicose veins and swollen ankles in pregnancy.
Keep skin Moisturised
In addition to ensuring that you keep your skin supple through eating the right foods, staying hydrated and getting enough exercise, you should massage your skin using an oil or organic belly butter, this will maximize the skin's elasticity. By massaging your skin twice daily from the first trimester throughout pregnancy, your skin will remain well-hydrated and better able to stretch.
Control your Weight
One of the most helpful things you can do to prevent stretch marks, is to maintain a healthy weight. Stretch marks can happen when your skin pulls apart quickly due to rapid weight gain. You may also notice stretch marks after rapid weight loss. Working to control body changes from happening too quickly may be your best bet. Eat a healthy diet and exercise to help you manage your weight. If you do notice rapid weight gain or weight loss, talk to your OBGYN about it.
Treat fresh stretch marks when they appear
You may not be able to completely prevent stretch marks from appearing even after taking all the precautions, so when they appear, you can work to minimize their appearance so they aren’t as noticeable in the long run. It is best to talk to a dermatologist if you plan on using any medicated stretch marks cream during pregnancy, as there are certain ingredients (like retinol) which can be harmful during pregnancy.
Note: There are no proven remedies that can completely keep stretch marks from appearing or that make them go away.
Rapid growth and weight gain is the most common cause of stretch marks.
Experts believe that genetics may play a role in whether or not a person gets stretch marks. The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery say that if a woman’s mother had stretch marks after pregnancy, she is more likely to get them as well.
Researchers also recently identified specific genes that may predispose people to stretch marks.
Other research indicates that women who are younger and have a higher body weight during pregnancy are more likely to get stretch marks than older pregnant women who weigh less.
Keeping your weight in check, staying hydrated, eating a healthy diet, and seeking treatment soon after the marks appear may help.
Stretch marks often fade to become less noticeable with time. Preventing them can be difficult, and no miracle products have been scientifically proven to work. Many creams, oils, and other personal care items claim to help prevent stretch marks, but many of these claims lack scientific backing.
It is best to talk to a dermatologist if you plan on using any medicated stretch marks cream during pregnancy.
American Society of Plastic Surgery: "Microdermabrasion."
Cleveland Clinic: "Stretch Marks."
Dermatologic Surgery: "Striae Distensae (Stretch Marks) and Different Modalities of Therapy: An Update."
Doris Day, MD, dermatologist, clinical assistant professor of dermatology, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York City.
The Marfan Foundation: "What is Marfan Syndrome?"
National Institutes of Health: "Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome," "Fractional nonablative 1540-nm laser treatment of striae distensae in Fitzpatrick skin types II to IV: clinical and histological results," "Topic tretinoin (retinoic acid) improves early stretch marks."
National Health Service: "Stretch marks in pregnancy."
Teens Health: “Stretch Marks.”
UCLA Health: "Cushing's Disease." University of Michigan: "Stretch Mark Science."
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