Stretch marks are a common occurrence during pregnancy.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology,
between 75 to 90 percent of women develop stretch marks during pregnancy.
As you gain more weight, your stomach (abdomen) gradually stretches further and further,
resulting into the appearance of stretch marks in the 6th or 7th month of pregnancy.
The marks first appear as thin parallel red lines in the middle layer of the skin.
As time passes by, the skin tends to become thin and silvery, making the marks look like scars.
Medical experts, believe that pregnant women get stretch marks because their bodies secrete the hormone corticosteroid, which reduces the amount of collagen in the skin.
Collagen is the protein that promotes the flexibility of the skin fibers.
In this article, we will discuss all that you need to know about preventing pregnancy stretch marks.
But before that, let’s first discuss some important facts about stretch marks during pregnancy.
When and where do pregnancy stretch marks form?
According the American Pregnancy Association, stretch marks start to appear during the later trimester of pregnancy (between the 6th or 7th month).
However, some women may start to see them as soon as their bellies start becoming bigger.
Darker skinned women tend to develop stretch marks that are lighter than the surrounding skin, while lighter skinned women tend to develop pinkish stretch marks.
The common areas where stretch marks form include:
- Breasts: Breasts undergo drastic growth during pregnancy.
This rapid stretching of the skin causes some faint silvery lines to appear at the base of the breasts.
The faint lines can just be at bottom or on the sides and in some cases all around the breasts.
Note that not all women develop breast stretch marks.
- Legs: Some women tend to gain a lot of weight around their thighs.
This causes them to develop few stretch marks in the inside of their thighs.
It is also possible to find stretch marks on the back side of the leg, near the knee.
- Under the Pubic Hair: The area under your pubic hair is known as mons pubis.
Most moms cannot even see this area when they are pregnant.
In fact, they only notice it after they have been shaved for a C-section.
Sometimes, stretch marks tend to start in this area and stretch all the way to the inner things.
- Back: Stretch marks can appear on your back too.
The marks tend to appear low, across the top of your bottom just below your waist line.
In some instances, they appear on the little fat pad over your bottom.
- Hips: Hips tend to expand gradually during pregnancy, making them a prime target for stretch marks.
As the pelvis fills with baby, women tend to gain more weight rapidly.
This causes some faint stretch marks to start appearing on their hips.
- Upper Arms: Stretch marks tend to appear in the inside of your upper arm near your breasts.
Stages of Stretch Marks during Pregnancy
Pregnancy stretch marks tend to follow a certain development process that can be divided into three stages.
The stages are as follows:
- Stage 1: During the initial stage, stretch marks are pink in color and may be itchy.
The areas of the skin where the stretch marks have formed tend to appear thin and flattened.
- Stage 2: Over time, stretch marks will increase gradually in both length and width.
They appear reddish or purplish in color.
- Stage 3: In this final stage, the stretch will have already matured.
They begin to lose their purplish or reddish color.
In a few months’ time, they begin to fade and become pale, white or silver. They also tend to develop irregular shapes or lengths and appear to be slightly depressed.
While it is essential to know where, why and how stretch marks form during pregnancy,
it is also imperative that you know how to prevent them from developing in the first place.
In this section, we will discuss the various ways you can prevent pregnancy stretch marks from forming.
How to Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy
The rate at which your pregnancy is growing determines whether your stretch marks will form or not.
There are no, however, proven ways to treat stretch marks or stop them from appearing although hundreds of stretch mark prevention creams are advertised every day..
Luckily, their color tends to fade to a tone that is less noticeable even in your final trimester.
One the best ways to prevent stretch marks is to ensure your skin maintains its maximum elasticity throughout pregnancy.
This can be achieved via by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, caring for your skin, keeping good habits after pregnancy, and applying natural home remedies.
We will discuss each of these four ways here:
A. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
There are many ways you can maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.
Some of these ways include:
1. Take a Skin-Nourishing Diet
Chances are that you have already started eating a balanced diet to make sure your baby gets enough vitamins and nutrients.
As you continue doing it, consider incorporating foods that enhance skin health and those that increase skin elasticity.
This helps to prevent stretch marks from forming. Include these foods to your diet:
- Foods rich in Vitamin A:
Vitamin A helps to repair any damaged skin tissues.
It can be found in foods, such as mangoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, and red bell peppers.
- Foods rich in Vitamin C:
Vitamin C helps in producing elastin and collagen.
It can be found in foods, such as cabbage, strawberries, potatoes, broccoli and cantaloupe.
- Foods rich in Vitamin E:
Vitamin E works as an antioxidant.
It helps to neutralize free radicals before they can harm your skin cells.
Since free radicals and sunlight can damage elastin and collagen, antioxidants help to maintain strength of the skin.
It is recommended that you take at least 15 milligrams of Vitamin E daily.
Good dietary sources of vitamin E include hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts, wheat germ and sunflower seeds.
- Foods rich in Vitamin D:
Vitamin D regulates the growth of new skin cells.
New skin cells form a protective barrier that helps the skin to hold moisture and maintain its flexibility.
Best dietary sources of vitamin D include lean protein, fibrous vegetables and low sugar fruits.
- Foods rich in Omega 3 and 6:
Omega 3 and 6 help to make your skin grow and keep your cell membranes healthy.
Eat fish, fish oil, walnuts, eggs and oysters to get these two essential fatty acids.
- Foods rich in Zinc:
Zinc deficiency is one of the major reasons people get stretch marks.
Zinc helps in collagen production and contains antioxidant properties.
Good dietary sources of zinc include whole grains, legumes, nuts, eggs, beef, lamb and chicken.
- Foods contain Gelatin:
Gelatin is another great way to prevent the occurrence of stretch marks.
Gelatin helps in collagen formation.
Collagen helps in improving skin elasticity.
To increase collagen formation, you can eat gelatin through your diet.
It is unfortunate most diets today lack gelatin.
2. Stay Hydrated
Fluids not only keep your skin cells plump, but also help to detoxify the body.
This makes it easy for the skin to return back to normal, after stresses brought by stretch marks.
Here are some of the major ways you can stay hydrated:
- Eat watery fruits and vegetables:
Eating watery fruits and vegetables helps you to stay hydrated.
Good examples of watery fruits and vegetables include watermelons, strawberries, honeydew, fresh bell peppers, big salads with cucumbers and eat celery.
- Drink herbal tea:
Another way to stay hydrated is by drinking tea that does not contain caffeine.
Drink herbal tea to avoid the boredom of drinking water each day.
- Drink 8 glasses of water daily:
If you cannot drink them all together, consider getting a water bottle that can carry eight glasses of water and drink the water in bits throughout the day.
3. Manage Your Weight
Stretch marks appear when you gain too much weight faster.
This is why you need to pay attention to your weight.
You can manage your weight by:
- Preventing food cravings: If you have food cravings, just have a little of whatever food you strongly desire and then eat lots of fruits. This way, you will satisfy your cravings, while keeping an eye on your weight.
- Avoid overeating: Although pregnant women should eat more calories than what they were eating before, avoid eating too much.
4. Do Low Impact Exercises
Routine exercises during pregnancy helps to maintain your skin’s elasticity by promoting blood circulation.
You can avoid gaining those extra ponds by:
- Trying low impact exercises and yoga: Exercises, such as yoga and Pilates help you to get rid of uncomfortable positions during pregnancy.
- Do exercises for pregnant moms: These include stretches, kegel exercises and all other simple movements.
B: Take Good Care of Your Skin
1. Apply Natural Oils
Apply natural oils to hydrate and moisturize the skin.
Apply the oils on areas of the body that are prone to stretch marks, such as belly, sides, legs, thighs and lower back.
Examples of natural oils that are perfect for hydrating and moisturizing the skin include:
Cocoa butter, wheat germ oil, almond oil, Shea butter.
Pure lanolin oil can also do wonders.
Apply these natural oils in the morning after a bath and at night before retiring to bed.
If the area where the skin is stretched is itchy, consider applying more oil to it.
2. Avoid Chemicals
Most body washes contain sulfates, which dry out the skin.
This reduces the elasticity of the skin.
Consider using cleaners that are made of natural oils.
Use coconut oil on the skin and the rinse it off with warm water before drying it using a soft towel.
Avoid cleansing your skin, if it is prone to dryness.
All you need to do is use some Luke-warm then pat dry.
3. Dry Brush Your Skin
Use a dry brush to brush your skin.
This helps to exfoliate your skin and keep it healthy.
Dry brushing is not only recommended as a stretch marks preventative technique, but also a way of reducing the appearance of stretch marks.
Follow the steps below when dry brushing your skin:
- Always use a brush that has been made from natural fibers and has stiff bristles.
- While dry brushing start from the bottom (legs) to the top (heart area). Put more emphasis on areas that are prone to stretch marks, such as stomach and abdomen. After you have finished brushed, consider taking a warm bath to clean away the dead cells.
- Avoid dry brushing your breasts as the breast skin is sensitive and can be damaged easily when brushed.
4. Apply Sunscreen
If you like spending time out in the sun, ensure you apply enough sunscreen to your body,
especially on the belly, sides and chest areas as well as other body parts that are prone to stretching.
C. Keep Fit Even After Pregnancy
1. Keep on Exercising
Gradually strengthen your exercises even after pregnancy.
You can focus on:
- Strength training: Strength training helps you to build strong muscles. Strong muscles help to tighten up your skin, thus preventing the occurrence of stretch marks. Look for a qualified trainer to help you choose strength exercises that suit you.
- Cardio workouts: Do lots of cardio workouts, such as swimming, running, biking to enhance blood circulation. Cardio workouts also help your skin to get back into shape fast.
2. Maintain a Skin Nourishing Diet
- Continue drinking liquids to keep your skin hydrated so that elasticity is maintained.
- Avoid losing weight with a crash diet after giving birth. If you have to lose weight, do it gradually so that your skin is able to have enough time to tighten.
- Continue eating a balanced diet. Include foods, such as fish, avocados, vegetables, nuts and fruits in your diet. A skin nourishing diet helps your skin to recover and renew from stretching.
D. Apply Natural Home Remedies
Aloe Vera is popularly known for its excellent healing properties.
The gel contained in Aloe Vera plant contains fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and enzymes that help in preventing stretch marks, restoring the skin and enhance your skin’s healing process.
To use Aloe Vera, just cut a leaf from the plant. Squeeze out the gel from the inside and apply it to high risk or affected areas of the skin. Leave it for a few minutes to absorb.
Do this twice a day in the morning and evening.
If you do not have an Aloe Vera plant already, consider buying it online.
Olive oil contains antioxidants, Vitamin E and other healing compounds that help with the skin healing process.
Olive oil can be used as both a preventative and remedy for stretch marks.
It is safe and can be applied throughout the entire pregnancy period.
For the best results, consider using extra virgin olive oil.
Apply it on the high risk or affected areas of the skin and leave it on so that the nutrients are absorbed into skin.
Olive oil can also be used to soothe the itchiness of the skin that occurs because of the extreme stretching of the skin as it enlarges.
Commonly found in many soaps and creams, coconut oil is an effective skin moisturizer and a vegan, natural massage oil.
It is rich in fatty acids and Vitamin E which are essential for your skin’s health.
Coconut oil is absorbed quickly and deeply into your skin and helps to get rid of the dead cells.
For the best results, first take a shower or a bath before massaging coconut oil into your skin.
Since the oil is natural and not medicated, you can apply it up to three times a day, for a prolonged skin hydration.
It is recommended that you continue using the oil even after your child birth.
Use virgin coconut oil for successful and fast results.
Castor oil has been used for many to prevent many skin problems, including blemishes, spots, fine lines, wrinkles and many more.
It has excellent humectant properties that help the skin remain moisturized.
This makes it an ideal home remedy for preventing stretch marks.
Since it does not contain harmful chemicals, it can be used at any stage of pregnancy.
For better results, massage your skin with a thick layer of castor oil.
Place a plastic wrap on the affected or high risk skin area and use a hot water bottle or heating pad on the area for about twenty minutes.
Do this several times a week.
For even better results, consider mixing the oil with almond oil.
How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks after Pregnancy
1. Oil Treatments
The basic idea of oil treatment is to moisturize the skin so that it remains hydrated.
The more you keep your skin soft and hydrated, the less your stretch marks will be.
Regular massage of your chest, thighs, belly and abdomen area with oils helps you to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
Some of the best oils to help you remove stretch marks after pregnancy include:
- Essential oil massage: This one of the most effective home remedies for stretch marks. Add essential oils, such as Germanium, Rose, Lavender or other oils to regular oils, such as almond oil or coconut oil. This helps to dilute your regular oil. Apply it over the affected area at twice a day.
- Vitamin E oil: Mix your favorite moisturizer with Vitamin E oil and massage it on the affected areas daily.
- Olive Oil: This is another common remedy for postpartum stretch marks. Apply olive oil to the affected areas so that the lines start to fade. Take a shower immediately after applying the oil on the stretch marks.
2. Aloe Vera Gel
This popular herb is known for treating stretch marks.
Aloe Vera is both a skin softener and a natural healing agent.
Squeeze the gel from a fresh plant and massage it on the affected areas each day.
It soothes the skin and promotes healing.
3. Alfalfa Leaves
Alfalfa leaves are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K4, and minerals like calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and iron.
Their anti-fungal property detoxifies the skin and helps to remove pregnancy stretch marks.
Mix alfalfa powder with a few drops of chamomile oil.
Apply the mixture on the affected areas at least two to three time daily.
You should see the stretch marks fading with a week.
Sugar is another remedy for stretch marks.
It considered a homeopathic microdermabrasion method.
It exfoliates dead skin and helps in minimizing the appearance of pregnancy stretch marks.
Mix a tablespoon of sugar with almond oil and few drops of lemon juice.
Apply the scrub to affected areas before taking your batch and watch stretch marks reducing.
Drink ten to twelve glasses of water daily to keep your skin hydrated.
A well-hydrated skin remains free of numerous skin problems, including stretch marks.
Medical experts recommend that reduce the intake of soda, tea or coffee as they can cause dehydration.
6. Cocoa Butter or Shea Butter
Just like oil treatments, butter treatment is also an effective remedy for postpartum stretch marks.
Butter prevents skin dryness and improves skin elasticity.
Apply cocoa butter or Shea butter directly on the affected area to minimize the appearance of stretch marks.
Wash off after application and repeat the procedure regularly.
7. Tretinoin Cream
Also known as Retin-A, Tretinoin cream is recommended by dermatologists if you are not breastfeeding.
It can be used alone or together with other creams.
Studies show that application of 0.1 percent Tretinoin cream reduces stretch marks by up to 14 percent.
8. Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid has peeling properties.
It helps to promote collagen production and increases skin elasticity, thus making stretch marks less visible.
Glycolic acid capsules are readily available in drug stores.
Make sure you consult with your doctor before taking the pills.
9. Laser Therapy
Laser is a proven medical method for removing stretch marks.
It can be used to treat older, deeper and newer stretch marks.
Laser therapy results in permanent stretch removal, though it can be very costly.
10. Derma Peeling or Chemical Peels
Also known as chemexfoliation, this method involves the use of a chemical solution to remove stretch marks.
The chemical solution is applied on the affected area and results in blister formation.
The blistered skin is later peeled off for the formation of a new skin layer.