If you’re pregnant, all sorts of things are bound to be flying through your head: how to eat well for both you and your baby, what items to buy ahead of the birth and … how to prevent those dreaded stretch marks!
Stretch marks are very common among pregnant women, with figures showing that about nine out of ten women get them. Pregnancy isn’t the only time when stretch marks can appear, as many people also develop them following growth spurts during puberty or as a result of weight gain.
What Exactly Are Stretch Marks?
Basically, stretch marks develop when the skin is stretched over a short period of time – such as when a baby bump is growing. As the skin stretches, the middle layer of skin or ‘dermis’ can break in places, revealing the deeper skin layers underneath.
Stretch marks often appear red or purple when they first appear. This is due to the blood vessels in the deeper layers of the skin showing through. Over time, the blood vessels shrink and your stretch marks will become a silvery-white color due to the pale-colored fat underneath the skin.
What Can I Do To Prevent Stretch Marks?
Some pregnant women are just plain lucky and don’t get stretch marks; but for others, it’s one of the first things they worry about when their baby bump starts to grow. This is the point at which you can take action to reduce your risk of stretch marks as, once they’ve developed, they can be extremely difficult to get rid of without resorting to laser treatment or cosmetic surgery. Here are some steps you can take to help prevent stretch marks:
Keep An Eye On Your Weight
You’re bound to gain some weight when you’re pregnant as you’re creating a whole new life inside you! But that doesn’t mean you should splurge on food and put on vast amounts of weight. The old saying ‘eating for two’ is actually misleading as you definitely shouldn’t eat enough for two people when you’re pregnant! As a rough guide, women who are a normal weight – with a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 – should gain 25-35lb over the course of their pregnancy. Gaining this weight steadily should help to reduce the effect of stretch marks.
Watch Your Diet
A healthy diet is important for your unborn baby, but it may also help to protect your skin. Certain vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C and E and zinc, are known to be important for good skin health, so make sure you regularly eat foods containing these vital nutrients. You should also drink plenty of water to keep well hydrated.
Use Moisturizing Creams
You should moisturize your skin every day while pregnant, as this will prevent your skin from drying out and could help to reduce your risk of stretch marks.
Massage Your Skin
Using a massage glove to massage your skin can help to improve circulation and promote skin cell renewal.
Help – I Already Have Stretch Marks!
If you have stretch marks already, don’t panic, as they will usually fade over time and there are treatments available to make them less noticeable.
Creams and Gels
Creams, gels and lotions that you rub into your skin are the easiest way to tackle stretch marks. They aim to moisturize the skin and should be applied to stretch marks at an early stage, when the marks are still red or purple.
One such product is Bio-Oil, a specialist skincare oil that claims to improve the appearance of stretch marks. Bio-Oil is the leading scar and stretch mark product in a number of countries and has won well over 100 skincare awards since its launch in 2002.
A study conducted at the proDERM Institute for Applied Dermatological Research in Hamburg, Germany, in 2010 found that 95% of participants achieved significant improvements in the appearance of their stretch marks within two weeks of starting to use Bio-Oil.
Laser therapies, such as pulsed dye laser treatment, can help to fade stretch marks and make them less noticeable. The energy from the laser causes the blood vessels in the stretch marks to collapse, leading the marks to lose their red or purple color.
The most drastic way to deal with stretch marks is to have a tummy tuck to remove the excess skin and fat from your belly, getting rid of your stretch marks at the same time. However, this is a really extreme approach to the problem and you’re better off trying creams and laser therapy before resorting to surgery for something as harmless as stretch marks.