Most women get stretch marks as they gain weight during pregnancy. As the baby grows inside you, the skin stretches to its limit and causes tiny tears in the layers of the skin. These tears have a white and glossy appearance to them and are known as stretch marks. These scars are formed mainly on the belly but can also affect the legs, abdomen, breasts, hips and other areas prone to weight gain during pregnancy. Stretch marks once formed, don’t disappear from the body. While they are medically completely harmless, many women are embarrassed about the scars on their body.
Nutraceutical companies and beauty product manufacturers are very active in promoting various products in form of lotions, creams, moisturizers, oils, body butter et all to prevent the stretch marks. But do they really work? Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence to show that these products work as advertised. It’s a lesser known fact that stretch marks are hereditary in nature and genetics plays an important role in deciding whether you will get them or not.
While this is something you just can’t control, certain remedies may help improve the appearance or occurrence of stretch marks.
- Try and gain weight gradually. A sudden increase in weight during pregnancy can definitely lead to more stretch marks at various parts of the body. However, a steady weight gain may reduce your chances of getting stretch marks.
- Gain only the recommended amount of weight. Being over the weight limit will lead to more stretch marks.
- Do low impact exercises regularly during pregnancy. Exercising helps prevent excess weight and improves elasticity of skin along with the blood circulation in body. Stretching and prenatal yoga are excellent pregnancy exercises.
- Nourish your body. Make sure you have at least 8-9 litres of water a day as it keeps the skin hydrated. Consume foods rich in vitamin A (like carrots, mangoes), vitamin C (like oranges, tomatoes), vitamin E (like avocados, nuts, broccoli), antioxidants (like strawberries, blueberries) and omega 3 (like fish oil, flax seed). These nutrients are great for nourishing the skin and repairing skin tissues.
- Keep the skin moisturized. It is good to make sure the skin is not dry because well moisturized skin stretches better as you gain weight. However, moisturizers alone can’t prevent the occurrence of stretch marks.
- After the baby is born and your body has recovered, you can always consult a dermatologist to understand various medical therapies available to help fade the stretch marks.
- Give it time. In many cases, stretch marks become faded (however, they don’t disappear) and are barely noticeable after a few years of them being formed.
Stretch marks are nothing to be ashamed of. They are marks which assert your power of giving birth to a new life. You earn them while going through a beautiful journey of motherhood. Since you can’t always prevent them, stressing about them and stretching your budget to afford the various anti stretch mark products available is not a great idea. In today’s world of photo-shopped perfection, it is important not to get influenced and lower down one’s self image. Like most things in life, stretch marks too fade away with time.
The author is a CAPPA certified childbirth educator.