Pregnancy brings a lot of excitement and planning, but it also brings many unexpected physical changes and emotional stress. A very common bodily change is the red or purplish colored streaks that form on the body. Though these marks can be anywhere on the body, they commonly appear on the belly and breasts. These marks present signs that your body is getting itself ready to nurture and accommodate the growing life in you.
If you check the photographs of pregnant women in the media, they reflect flawless perfect skin which is free from all marks and blemishes. This is not the true picture, as 90% of women get some stretch mark on any part of their body due to pregnancy.
The Cause of Stretch Marks During Pregnancy
Pregnancy stretch marks or the Striae Gravidarum appear or form when the tissue under the top skin layer, also known as the dermis, begins to increase or stretch faster than the upper skin or the epidermis. The length, width, and depth of these marks have a lot of variation when they are formed.
This wear and tear of the tissue form scars or marks on the epidermis, which are initially purplish or red. Over time these marks tend to fade to a light silvery color. Some marks may appear silvery from the beginning and visible on any body part, from the shoulders to the legs.
Pregnancy stretch marks or scars can also be itchy when they start to form also. In some cases, these stretch marks are so deep that they tend to bleed. If this is the case with you, it is suggested that you seek advice from a doctor.
Pregnancy stretch marks can appear on any individual, whether a growing teenager or a bodybuilder trying to increase muscle mass. Even many wives may discover stretch marks on their husband’s bodies. These marks may be dim or faded and can occur in inconspicuous places. Some of these places can be the lower back, where if these marks appear, the person having them is not even aware of it. Besides these reasons, stretch marks are generally associated with pregnancy.
Genes play a vital role in determining the susceptibility of developing or getting stretch marks. Some women may notice them as early as in the first trimester. Other reasons causing stretch marks are Corticosteroids and Cushing’s syndrome.
Pregnancy stretch marks appear on almost 90% of pregnant women, but some may have more or fewer chances of having them. However, some measures can be taken to reduce the number of these stretch marks. For example, if your mother or sister has developed stretch marks during their pregnancies, you are likely to develop them too.
Also, women who tend to gain excess weight too quickly are more prone to developing stretch marks. Avoiding unnecessary weight gain means you are leading a healthy lifestyle, whether pregnant or not. Though even some pregnant women who are slim after delivery tend to develop stretch marks, hormonal causes may be the reason.
Tips to Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy
Maintaining a healthy diet is also a hindrance in the way of stretch marks development. In pregnancy, eating well is a prerequisite, and it is not suggested to eat less to avoid stretch marks. Include antioxidants, and make sure to include healthy fats in your diet.
Wearing loose and breathable pregnancy wear will allow proper air circulation, and drinking lots of water will help keep the skin moisturized. Also, exercising will help take care of the skin, though do not take up any new exercise without consulting the doctor.
Brushing your skin lightly, preferably with a loofah, will stimulate blood flow in the skin and prove to be beneficial. Also, your breast sizes increase, and support will be needed. Using supportive maternity bras will help in reducing breast marks and will also minimize breast tissue stretching.
Though without significant proof, many oils and creams claim to reduce stretch marks on the body. These cosmetical ailments include Aloe vera, olive oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, vitamin E, rosehip oil, Centella Asiatica extract, a natural herm, Gotu Kola, and Retin A.
The pregnancy stretch marks, especially on the belly, tend to itch, and maternity pants with stretchable waistbands can help with this. Also, pregnancy brings with it, in some cases, an itch known as pruritus gravid arum. If this is the case, you should consult a doctor.
All these cosmetic products should be used externally, and if there is any doubt on the side effects of these products, you should consult a doctor, like Retin A should not be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Many testimonials are present against the effectiveness of creams and moisturizing your skin to reduced stretch marks. However, constant research is going on related to different substances such as Centaasiatica, which is plant-based, and squalene, which is an animal-based substance also found in olive oil. Also, scientific researchers are working on using fibroblasts from the person’s own skin to treat stretch marks.
Many women do not pay much attention to the stretch marks immediately after the baby’s birth; however, the result of using anything for stretch marks bears more consequences if used early rather than years later. Retin A has proven to reduce scars and marks, but it cannot be used during pregnancy because of the potentially severe side effects.
Lasers have also been tried to reduce pregnancy stretch marks, and studies are still ongoing. Earlier, some laser treatments have left worse scars than before, especially if used by inadequately trained operators.
Also, some women have opted for mini tummy tucks, which smooth the skin of the area and reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
Moreover, exercising and getting toned will help reduce stretch marks, though returning to a pre-pregnancy state is not easy. Also, pregnancy affects the breasts; some experience smaller and less firm breasts while others experience permanent larger breasts. Also, some people may notice that their breast round-up and stretch marks disappear if the previous firmness is not achieved.
Since pregnancy stretch marks are scars due to tissue stretch, they will not tan and be more visible under a tan. A tanning product may help in reducing it along with saving time under the sun.