What to do about Stretch Marks

What to do about Stretch MarksAs your body is changing in many amazing ways, one downside to pregnancy is stretch marks.  While you probably won’t like the way they look, stretch marks are a cosmetic issue that comes with the job of being an expectant mom.  These bothersome signs of pregnancy appear on 90% of women at some point during their 9 months of gestation, according to the American Academy for Dermatology.

Stretch marks occur when your body is growing faster than your skin can stretch.  The elastic fibers beneath the surface of your skin will break, causing the lines we know as stretch marks.  This primarily happens on the belly as that is the area that is growing the fastest.  However, stretch marks can also occur on the arms, thighs and buttocks where women also tend to gain weight during pregnancy.  Stretch marks are genetic and women with lighter skin get pinkish lines while women with darker complexions have lighter lines.

For most women, avoiding stretch marks altogether may be impossible.  However, there are ways to help prevent major scaring from stretch marks.  The best solution is to gain weight slowly.  The College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends women within a normal weight range gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy.  This weight gain helps ensure the baby is getting plenty of nutrients and has the opportunity to grow and develop healthily, while the mother creates the most welcoming environment in her body for the baby.  But with that much weight gain over less than a year’s time, skin has to work hard to stretch quickly.  When women gain weight slowly over the 9 month gestation period, their skin has a better chance of keeping up, which results in less stretch marks.  Rapid weight gain lends itself to more severe stretch marks.

Also during pregnancy and postpartum, women should remain hydrated by drinking plenty of water and hydrate skin topically with natural oils and lotions.  Many women use shea butter, cocoa butter and coconut oils as these nut, bean and fruit byproducts are bursting with essential fatty acids that stimulate the production of collagen and support healthy, adaptable skin cells.  WebMD recommends gels made from onion extract and hyaluronic acid as another natural way to reduce stretch marks.

Beware of creams and lotions that claim to prevent or eliminate stretch marks altogether.  These may contain hydrating and collagen-encouraging ingredients, but there is no magic potion for stretch marks.  If stretch mark creams interest you for hydration purposes, look for those with natural ingredients rather than chemicals and synthetics.  Regardless of what type of natural lotion you select – designed for stretch marks or just a general moisturizer – these products may help relieve itchiness and make your skin feel soft.  And we all know, comfort is key during pregnancy.  So go ahead and use them, just don’t expect miracles.

After pregnancy, you can discuss further stretch mark reduction procedures with your dermatologist.  Professionals can prescribe retinol, a therapeutic grade form of Vitamin A that stimulates the production of collagen and elastin and encourages cell turnover so fresh cells are constantly rising to the surface of your skin.  This can help fade stretch marks significantly.  Other procedures involving dermabrasion and lasers may work as well.

Eating for elasticity is important throughout pregnancy and as your belly returns to its normal shape.  Foods rich in cell-supporting antioxidants such as those with Vitamin A, C and E, essential fatty acids and anti-inflammatories are excellent to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and maintain general good health.  Gelatin is another good choice as it adds elasticity to skin.

Stretch marks are a normal part a pregnant woman’s changing body.  Having a baby requires sacrifices and this is one of many you may face as a mother.  Try not to let it get you down and focus on ways to keep your skin hydrated, nourished and healthy to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.  Any lingering marks can be considered a badge of honor for your beautiful baby.