If you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, chances are, you’ve given a thought or two about stretch marks.
Stretch marks are the pinkish, sometimes bluish/purple streaks that can appear anywhere on the body. Stretch marks occur when the middle layer of the skin, the dermis, becomes damaged by excessive stretching. When the dermis is stretched, tearing occurs. This is the discoloration that can be visually seen.
Stretch marks are very common among pregnant women due to the dramatic changes that take place to the skin in that period.
If you want to talk prevention, we must first talk about genetics. Research suggests that genetics play an important role in determining the chances of acquiring stretch marks. All you need to do is ask your mother. If your mom got stretch marks during pregnancy, chances are, you’re most likely too also.
Research also indicates that there is nothing available that can 100% prevent stretch marks from occurring. There are various creams, oils and other products on the market that claim they prevent stretch marks, but there is no scientific proof to back those claims.
Tips for preventing stretch marks
The good news for you is that there are several steps you can actively take to help minimize your chances.
Since stretch marks occur when the skin is stretched beyond its capacity, the first thing to consider is weight gain. Doctors suggest a healthy weight gain during pregnancy is between 25-30 pounds. This is, of course, if you’re not over weight at the time of conception.
Controlling your weight gain has a lot to do with your diet during pregnancy. You should strive to eat healthy snacks and meals that are not only good for you, but your growing baby too. Try to avoid consuming a lot of “junk” food. Slow and steady weight gain is easier on your skin then wild weight gain.
Drink plenty of water! When you feel like you’ve had enough water, drink more. Our bodies need to stay hydrated, especially during pregnancy. Extra hydration is not only vital to your growing baby, it’s vital for healthy skin. Dehydrated skin is more likely to become damaged.
Apply lotion daily to areas that are more prone to stretch marks. This would include-your abdomen, breasts, thighs, and buttocks, lower back and upper arms. Although lotions have not been proven effective against stretch marks, it will help keep the skin moisturized and decrease itching.
Limit your sun exposure. We already know how damaging sunlight can be to the skin. It is also not known if sunscreens are harmful during pregnancy.
It is also important to keep in mind that rapid weight loss after delivery can lead to stretch marks also. Weight loss should be a steady and gradual process after pregnancy too.
If in the end, after all of your hard work, you still find that you have stretch marks, don’t despair, you’re not alone. Nearly 90% of all women, this writer included, develop some amount of stretch marks during pregnancy. Many women declare them their “badge of honor.” The reward of having a child is much greater then any slight skin imperfection.
While stretch marks are considered permanent, in time, the marks will fade and become hardly noticeable.
© Rebecca Pillar 2008