You’re pregnant, and you are worried about what will happen to your body. You’re not alone; many women worry about stretch marks during pregnancy.
But don’t fret! You can do a lot to prevent stretch marks from happening while carrying your precious bundle of joy. Read on for more information and tips on how to keep this from happening!
Stretch marks, also called striae distensae or striae gravidarum, look like indented streaks in your skin.
They may be red, purple, or silver in appearance. Stretch marks most often appear on the:
They’re common in pregnancy, but anyone can develop stretch marks in any phase of life.
Some people are more susceptible to them. For example, if your mom, dad, grandparents, or other blood relative has stretch marks, you’re more likely to get them.
Even if you’re at increased risk of stretch marks, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk and treat the stretch marks you already have.
What Trimester Do Pregnant Women Develop Stretch Marks?
You’ll most likely start to notice stretch marks on your stomach (and elsewhere) around the end of the second trimester into the beginning of the third trimester when you’re between 6 and 7 months pregnant.
That said, they do sometimes appear sooner.
Up to 90 per cent of all expecting women get these pink, red, brown or sometimes purplish streaks. You’ll most likely notice them across your belly, butt, thighs, hips or breasts.
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What Causes Stretch Marks During Pregnancy?
Stretch marks are tiny tears in the supporting layers of tissue under your skin as it’s pulled tight during pregnancy.
Whether or not you get stretch marks has a lot to do with the elasticity of your skin.
You can mostly thank genetics: If your mother had stretch marks, chances are greater that you probably will too.
Lifestyle habits, including eating well and exercising regularly, also promote skin health and elasticity.
One last important factor affecting the likelihood of stretch marks is how much weight you gain during pregnancy and how quickly.
Rapid weight gain makes you more prone to this badge of pregnancy. In addition, the faster your skin stretches, the more likely it is to leave a mark.
How To Prevent Stretch Marks?
While there is no way to guarantee that a person will not develop stretch marks, the following tips may help reduce the likelihood:
Chia seeds are a plant-based source of omega-3.
Omega-3 fatty acids help the skin stay supple. Many cold-water fish contain omega-3, including:
Vegetarian sources of omega-3 include:
- chia seeds
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend 8 ounces (oz) of seafood per week.
Pregnant women should talk with a doctor to confirm how much fish it is safe to eat. They should also avoid fish that is high in mercury.
Use a Moisturiser
Moisturising the skin regularly may help prevent stretch marks.
There are no creams or oils proven to prevent stretch marks. However, keeping the skin supple may help reduce the risk in some people.
Moisturisers can often help reduce itching that happens as the skin stretches.
One review found that creams and oils may also help prevent stretch marks, but more recent research is necessary to confirm this.
Avoid Anabolic Steroid Usage
Anabolic steroids weaken the skin’s structure, so people who use them, such as some athletes, may be more prone to stretch marks.
Anabolic steroids are not the same as corticosteroids, which people use to treat asthma, allergies, lupus, arthritis, and many other conditions.
Limit or Avoid Steroid Creams for Itching
Steroid creams or corticosteroids, which usually contain cortisone, may weaken skin’s collagen and result in stretch marks.
However, people concerned about this should speak to a doctor before discontinuing them.
People can try anti-itch creams that do not contain cortisone for minor bug bites and rashes. They can also ask a doctor about nonsteroidal creams for conditions such as eczema.
If a person must use creams containing cortisone, it is best to use them only for as long as necessary before switching to a milder cream.
Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
Researchers have not been able to prove that any specific vitamins prevent stretch marks. Still, evidence shows that skin needs various nutrients, including vitamins A, C, E, and zinc, to stay healthy. Fruits and vegetables are rich in these and other vitamins and minerals.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercising regularly can help a person lose weight and avoid weight gain in the future. In addition, remaining at a healthy weight can reduce the risk of excessive skin stretching.
Exercise also increases blood flow to the skin, which can help the skin rebuild itself.
Wear Sunscreen and Avoid Direct Sun
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays damage the skin’s collagen and elastin, making stretch marks more likely to form.
People should seek shade, wear UV-protective clothing, and apply sunscreen daily. It is essential to allow the sunscreen to absorb for 30 minutes before sun exposure and to reapply it at least every 2 hours while spending time in the sun.
Smoking reduces blood flow to the skin, depriving it of the oxygen it needs to repair itself. In addition, smoking depletes nutrients in the body that the skin needs to stay healthy.
Smoking also releases damaging free radicals, breaking down the collagen and elastin fibres in the skin.
Control Your Weight
One of the most helpful things you can do to prevent stretch marks, whether you’re pregnant or not, 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.
Some people develop stretch marks during growth spurts, such as during puberty. Other people, like bodybuilders, notice them after significant gains from working out or using steroids.
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 notice rapid weight gain or weight loss, it may be a good idea to visit your doctor to find out why.
Arguably the best way to avoid stretch marks is not to gain weight rapidly since stretch marks occur when the skin is pulled apart quickly.
Many opinions exist about how much weight gain is appropriate during pregnancy. Although you should not eat for two, you do get to increase your calories.
Finding the balance of how much more to eat while not overdoing it is certainly possible.
Speak with your doctor about what is best for you, as the total weight gain can be different for every individual.
This number will fall between 25-35 pounds for most patients.
However, your ideal weight gain number can fluctuate based on whether or not you are overweight or underweight going into pregnancy.
Drinking enough water may help keep your skin hydrated and soft. Soft skin doesn’t tend to develop stretch marks as much as dry skin does.
The Institute of Medicine’s current recommendations for daily water intake is 104 ounces for men and 72 ounces for women.
Drinking caffeinated beverages, like coffee, may 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.
Drinking enough water is beneficial during pregnancy for many reasons. First, water helps carry nutrients to you and your growing fetus.
It can also aid in urinary tract infection (UTI) prevention, which is common during pregnancy.
Additionally, a proper hydration level can help with fatigue, prevent swelling, and even relieve morning sickness.
If you become dehydrated during pregnancy, then you may experience headaches, nausea, and cramping.
However, if you are well hydrated, that means your skin is well hydrated and even softer as well. Simply put, more delicate skin is less likely to develop stretch marks than dry, rough skin.
Check with your doctor on how much water is appropriate for you to drink in a day, as your activity level and the weather can affect this daily water intake goal.
One of the best pregnancy tips is to keep a water bottle with you at all times, so it is convenient for you to sip it throughout the day.
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Eat a Nutrient-Rich Diet
Stretch marks may also occur if you lack nutrition in certain areas. Eating foods that boost skin health may help. Make sure your diet includes foods rich in:
- vitamin C
- vitamin D
- vitamin E
One way to make sure you’re getting various nutrients is to choose unprocessed foods in multiple colours.
For example, a breakfast of eggs, whole-wheat toast, and mixed berries add many colours to your plate while packing in a variety of nutrients.
Get Your Vitamins
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is paramount for the growth of your baby. Furthermore, stretch marks may occur simply because you were missing certain essential nutrients.
Vitamin C, E, D, and Zinc are crucial elements of a balanced pregnancy diet that can help prevent stretch marks.
Taking a prenatal vitamin can also help make sure these daily goals are met, and your OB-GYN can provide some guidance to help you find the best prenatal vitamin with the recommended amounts of nutrients.
Ensuring you consume an appropriate amount of protein is another key toward preventing stretch marks.
To reach your daily goal of eating the appropriate amounts of nutritious foods, you should strive to eat a variety from each food group.
Grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and protein sources make up these groups.
An example of a balanced meal could be a chicken thigh, sweet potato or slice of whole-grain bread, and broccoli with cheese.
Include Vitamin C in Your Diet
Collagen plays a role in keeping your skin firm and elastic. It helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles, but it may also be necessary for preventing stretch marks.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for the development of collagen. Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables.
Citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons, are excellent sources of vitamin C.
Soak up Some Vitamin d
One study found a correlation between low levels of vitamin D and the incidence of stretch marks.
More research is needed, but results suggest that maintaining healthy vitamin D levels may reduce your risk of stretch marks.
The easiest way to get vitamin D is through exposure to the sun. The vitamin is also commonly added to bread, cereal, and dairy products like milk or yogurt.
Vitamin D can also help you avoid stretch marks during pregnancy. It is essential to be cautious when you expose yourself to direct sunlight, especially while pregnant.
Your skin tends to be more sensitive during pregnancy. It would help if you also were careful not to get too overheated or dehydrated.
With this in mind, a few minutes in the sun here and there throughout your pregnancy can give you just the boost of vitamin D you need to help you avoid stretch marks.
Eat Foods Rich in Zinc
Zinc is an essential nutrient for skin health. It helps reduce inflammation and plays a role in the wound healing process.
There is very little evidence to date of a connection between zinc and stretch marks, but including zinc-rich foods in your diet, such as nuts and fish, may help keep your skin healthy.
Treat Fresh Stretch Marks When They Appear
If you can’t prevent stretch marks on your skin, you can work to minimise their appearance so they aren’t as noticeable in the long run.
Make an appointment with your doctor or a dermatologist to discuss your options with fresh stretch marks.
Your doctor can help determine what is causing your marks, and they may be able to suggest treatment options that work best on new stretch marks.
If stretch marks appear, then you can still act quickly to treat them. There are many creams and lotions available on the marketplace to help minimise their appearance.
The ingredients in popular stretch mark treatment lotions range from vitamin E to hyaluronic acid and shea butter and cocoa butter. Your doctor can also help better determine what may be causing the stretch marks and give you some guidance on treatment options.
Wait it Out
Given enough time, stretch marks gradually lighten and fade on their own.
But if you’re still concerned once you deliver your baby, talk to your dermatologist about other treatments.
While none of these options can eliminate stretch marks, they can make them less noticeable:
Prescription retinol or tretinoin creams. These types of retinoids have been shown to treat stretch marks effectively by helping to rebuild the collagen in the skin.
Ask your doctor whether it’s safe to use them when breastfeeding.
- Laser therapy
- Chemical peels
Of course, you wanted a solution yesterday, but hold off on these methods while you’re still expecting.
None of them is considered safe during pregnancy. Plus, your skin will continue to change throughout these nine months.
Some people are more likely to develop stretch marks. Risk factors include:
- being female
- having a family history of stretch marks
- being overweight
- being pregnant
- gaining or losing weight quickly
- using corticosteroids
- having breast augmentation
- having certain genetic disorders, such as Cushing’s syndrome or Marfan syndrome
Stretch Marks In Pregnancy
Pregnancy is one of the most common times when women notice stretch marks. It’s estimated that 50 to 90 per cent of pregnant women will develop stretch marks before delivery.
So, are pregnancy stretch marks different from the ones that other people get? Maybe. Some experts believe that hormones during pregnancy may make you more prone to stretch marks.
The hormones may bring more water into the skin, relaxing it and making it easier to tear when stretched.
This idea is up for debate. Regardless, a good number of pregnant women will notice stretch marks starting in the sixth or seventh month of pregnancy.
In a recent study, 78 per cent of respondents used a product to prevent stretch marks. A third of these women said they tried two or more products, with Bio-Oil being the most frequently used.
Still, 58.5 per cent of the women who used this oil developed stretch marks. That said, the best way for pregnant women to prevent stretch marks is to gain pregnancy weight slowly and steadily.
You can work with your healthcare provider to find a diet and exercise plan that will help you avoid gaining too much while also giving you the nutrition you need to nourish yourself and your baby.
If you develop stretch marks during pregnancy, you may be glad to know that they will eventually fade.
Over time, the red or pink colour will mature into a pale silver or white colour.
Preventing stretch marks may be difficult, but many treatments may lessen their appearance.
Retinoid cream is a topical medication that comes from vitamin A. The appearance of your skin may improve after applying retinoids, especially if your stretch marks are relatively fresh.
The cream helps rebuild the collagen in your skin and makes the marks look more like the rest of your skin.
Speak with your doctor about this treatment if you are pregnant or nursing, as most physicians agree that topical retinoids should not be used during pregnancy or while nursing because their risk-benefit ratio remains questionable.
Laser therapy is another option for reducing stretch marks. The lasers can help stimulate collagen or elastin in your skin to grow.
There are various types of laser therapy, and your doctor can help you choose the kind that is right for you.
Glycolic acid creams and chemical peels are other treatments for stretch marks. Unfortunately, many of these treatments are expensive and may not be covered by your insurance.
They help lessen the appearance of current stretch marks, but they do not keep new ones from forming.
Stretch marks often fade to become less noticeable with time. Unfortunately, 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.
They may not help, but in most cases, they aren’t likely to hurt, either. Keeping your weight in check, staying hydrated, eating a healthy diet, and seeking treatment soon after the marks appear may help.
Call your doctor if you notice an increase in stretch marks or if they cover a large area of your body. Your doctor may be able to help you figure out what is causing them and suggest treatment options.
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