Finding out you are expecting is a wonderful thing, a time of joy and anticipation. Of course, whilst finding out you’re about to become a mother is a thing to cherish, it’s perfectly normal to begin worrying about what the whole process is going to do to your body.
Whilst weight gain is something most women think about first and foremost, stretch marks are probably the second consideration to come to mind.
Stretch marks can appear on the body at any time, either from weight gain and loss, growth spurts due to puberty, and simply because they feel like it, but pregnancy is a certain hotspot for stretch mark formation. Why? Because the clue is really in the name – stretching. Stretch marks appear when the skin is stretched, which is what happens in pregnancy.
To give stretch marks their medical name of striae, basically these red/purpose/silver marks occur because the fat cells under your skin’s surface are being stretched at a much faster rate than what your skin can actually keep up and grow. Your skin will of course catch up, but the delay causes over-stretching lines, which can appear red or purple at first, and then eventually fade to a silvery colour.
Stretch marks in pregnancy are hugely prevalent, and between 40-90% of all pregnant women will develop stretch marks to some degree. These lines can appear anywhere on the body, but obviously during pregnancy this is most likely to be on the stomach and breasts. The sides of the stomach are a hotspot during pregnancy, because this is where the weight of the baby will be felt on the skin, as well as the placenta and the amniotic fluid too. Whilst stretch marks aren’t dangerous or damaging to health, they can be damaging to self-esteem, if you allow their appearance to bother you.
So, if you’re torn between total joy at your new impending bundle of joy, and worry about stretch mark formation, these five key points will help you prevent or at least seriously minimise the chances of developing stretch marks during your pregnancy.
Key 1 – Watch Your Diet, and Avoid Excessive Weight Gain
Whilst eating a diet that is both balanced and healthy is good for your overall health, it is also going to help you reduce or perhaps even eradicate the chances of developing pregnancy stretch marks. During pregnancy it is more important than ever before to make sure that you get a range of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Eat plenty of protein and also watch your portion control.
All of this will work towards packing your diet with the vitamins that your body needs, and also minimise any extra weight that you might have gained otherwise.
It’s a good idea to have a chat with your doctor and find out how much weight is likely to be gained during your pregnancy within a healthy bracket – yet, you are going to put on some weight, there is a baby growing inside of you after all, but eating whatever you feel like during those nine months will pile on pounds that are totally unnecessary, and will therefore add to your risk factor of stretch marks.
Key 2 – Exfoliation is Your Friend
In order to boost cell regeneration, and to boost your collagen supplies (the elastic fibres in your skin to allow stretching without marks), you need to make friends with exfoliation.
Of course, exfoliation is good at any time of your life, but during pregnancy it has a whole range of even greater benefits. This is a two fold benefit system, because whilst you’re boosting the growth of new skin cells, you’re also getting rid of dead skin cells on the surface, which will leave you glowing, with smooth skin to boot.
There are a few ways you can exfoliate, but the easiest and most effective way is to use either an exfoliating mitt, or a cloth and dry towel. You can buy an exfoliating scrub if you want to add a little extra luxury to proceedings, or you can simply make your own with sugar and a little lemon juice.
Simply apply the scrub or your home made version to your skin, and gently use circular scrubbing motions with the mitt or your wash cloth. Don’t press too hard and don’t cause your skin to become irritated – we’re talking smooth and gentle here! Once finished, wash off with warm water and pat dry. Your skin will be soft and smooth, and if you repeat this on a regular basis, e.g. a few times per week, then you will drastically reduce your chances of developing stretch marks in prone areas.
Key 3 – Moisturise Daily
You can go for an expensive all singing, all dancing moisturiser if you want to, but the basic ones will work just as well. What you’re basically doing is adding moisture and hydration to the area that is likely to stretch, boosting cell regeneration and ensuring that it is supple enough to stretch without damage, e.g. stretch marks. Cocoa butter is a good option, and one that has been around for years. This has a range of different vitamins within it, including vitamin E and jojoba, which are great for skin.
Simply apply to the area and gently rub in using a circulation motion, allowing it to dry completely on its own.
Key 4 – Drink Plenty of Water
Again, drinking water is great for your body overall, but staying hydrated doesn’t just mean you’re not going to get a headache and you’ll have glowing facial skin, but it helps the skin on your entire body stay hydrated too. Skin cells need water to do their regeneration thing, and as we mentioned before, you are trying to regenerate these skin cells, so they can stretch effectively, without causing marks.
Key 5 – Massage is Hugely Effective
You will have heard the beneficial effects of massage overall, but a gentle massage in pregnancy stretch mark prone areas will work wonders. The best time is after a bath or shower, when your pores are open, and when you have applied your moisturiser – this will help your hands move much more freely and will also have the added benefit of helping your moisturiser to soak in more effectively too.
Don’t press hard, simply massage gently for a few minutes, and if possible, do this a few times per day, to ensure you’re really getting to boost your circulation in the area. This will send new blood cells where they need to be, and help you grow new tissue much easier.
Whilst no-one can say 100% that you’re not going to develop any stretch marks during your pregnancy, these five key points will certainly help to reduce the likelihood.
About the Author
Hi I’m Lorna Frances, editor of A-Z Healthy Families. I created A-Z Healthy Families to help make health advice simple and easy to understand.