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Pregnancy | Body Matters

How to Prevent and Treat Pregnancy Stretch Marks

A form of scarring on the skin caused by tearing of the dermis, the resilient middle layer that helps the skin retain its shape, stretch marks are usually associated with rapid growth or weight gain and are most likely to appear in places where larger amounts of fat are stored – such as the belly, breasts, upper arms, underarms, thighs, hips and buttocks.

Between 75% and 90% of women develop stretch marks during pregnancy. The sustained hormonal levels as a result of pregnancy usually means stretch marks appear primarily during the third trimester, as that is when skin tends to be subjected to higher levels of stretching forces. When the skin grows too fast for its fibres to handle, the fibres will tear and leave pink, reddish or purplish marks. Although the amount of weight you gain and what you do to try to prevent stretch marks matters, if you are genetically prone to them there’s not much you can do. However you should take these four useful tips into consideration, as they might help reduce the amount of stretch marks you get or at least minimise their appearance.

stretch-marks

1. Keep your skin hydrated
Keep your skin hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout your pregnancy, and keep it moisturised from the day you find out you are pregnant until you are back to your pre-pregnancy weight. To help improve your skin’s elasticity, you can rub your belly several times a day in a circular motion with creams or oils that contain cocoa butter, vitamin E or sweet almond oil. There are plenty of stretch mark creams and tissue oils on the market that have been specifically designed to keep your skin firm and moisturised throughout your pregnancy.

2. Follow a healthy diet
Try not to gain more weight than what’s considered healthy in an average pregnancy. Just because you are eating for two doesn’t mean you have to eat everything you come across and always have two helpings. Eat plenty of fresh produce such as vegetables and fruit, and go for low fat products rather than those that are high in fat. Follow a balanced and nutritional diet, but allow yourself a treat and give in to cravings every now and then. Take the vitamins necessary for your wellbeing and your baby’s growth and development, and take vitamins C, E, A and zinc which are especially good for your skin.

3. Circulation and exercise
Areas that are prone to stretch marks – such as your abdomen, breasts, upper arms, underarms, thighs, hips and buttocks – can benefit from a body massage with a cloth or brush during your daily shower in order to increase circulation. A little bit of exercise every day – throughout your whole nine months of being pregnant – is also beneficial for both you and your unborn baby. It keeps your body in shape and your skin toned. To be on the safe side just make sure you discuss the pregnancy exercise of your choice with your gynae before you put it into practice.

4. Avoid stress
Reduce stress on your skin by reducing stress in your everyday life. Make sure you get a lot of rest when you are pregnant and avoid stressful situations in order to stay healthy and happy.

More often than not you simply can’t control the appearance of stretch marks even though you follow all the tips above throughout your pregnancy. Although some women swear by creams, they probably weren’t prone to stretch marks in the first place. The truth is, you either get them or you don’t. And although stretch marks can diminish over time, they never disappear completely.

However there are various treatments available for the purpose of improving the appearance of stretch marks after pregnancy. Consider factors such as the age of your stretch marks, the cost and the convenience of the different treatments in order to choose one that works for you.

  • Tretinoin creams such as Retin-A can only be used after pregnancy and can improve the appearance of recent stretch marks less than six weeks old and still pink or red in colour by rebuilding collagen.
  • Using pulsed dye laser therapy underlying skin can be remodelled by stimulating growth of elastin and collagen. This method is also more effective on new than old stretch marks.
  • Excimer laser, on the other hand, stimulates melanin production and aims to repigment your skin.
  • A new modality, fractional laser resurfacing, offers a novel approach to treating stretch marks. Using scattered pulses of light only a fraction of the scar is zapped by the laser over the course of several treatments. This creates microscopic wounds. The body responds to each treatment by producing new collagen and epithelium.
  • Micro dermabrasion involves a hand-held device that blows crystals onto your skin and gently polishes its surface which can result in new skin growth as the top layer is removed. This works well on older stretch marks as well.
  • A surgical procedure for removing lower abdominal stretch marks is the tummy tuck, which removes the skin below the navel where stretch marks frequently occur.

Although the appearance of stretch marks during pregnancy is hard to avoid for most, it doesn’t hurt to follow advice that may prevent stretch marks. At least you have tried your best, and if it doesn’t work you will just have to deal with it. After all, the gift of being able to make, carry, grow, develop and welcome a new life into the world is definitely worth a few marks here and there!

References:
www.wikipedia.org
www.zimbio.com
www.mayoclinic.com

 

One Response to “How to Prevent and Treat Pregnancy Stretch Marks”

  1. Good skin care during pregnancy means more than just preventing stretch marks – it means embracing a healthy routine to care for skin during and after pregnancy.

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