Inevitable or avoidable?
You find out you are pregnant and you are over the moon. You are excited about your little one that is growing inside you and you read up all there is to know about safe pregnancy. Whilst it is essential to ensure that your baby receives all the care and nutrients to safeguard his or her healthy growth and development, it is also important not to lose sight of your health and beauty needs. Pregnancy is the only time in a woman’s life when she will experience the most amount of physical changes that will alter the appearance of her body tremendously.
One of the bodily changes that pregnant women are most concerned about during pregnancy is the formation of stretch marks. So what is this skin condition during pregnancy that sounds hideous and painful? Read on to find out about stretch marks during pregnancy and how to ensure that clear and permanent marks are not left on your body after giving birth to your little one.
What are these marks on my body?
Pregnancy stretch marks are lines on the skin that may develop on the abdomen, as well as on other areas of the body during pregnancy. While they pose no health risk at all to mother or baby, many women have concerns about their unsightly appearance.
Why does that happen to my skin?
The skin adapts to continuous changing of the body by expanding and contracting, but during pregnancy it may have insufficient time to adjust, causing internal tears in the skin tissue. When these tears repair themselves they form the scars that we know as stretch marks.
A second factor causing stretch marks, which is still at a stage of debate by experts, involves the priming of the skin by increased levels of hormones. These hormones attract more water into the skin, which relaxes the bonds between collagen fibres. This makes it easier for the skin tissue to tear when it is stretched, causing stretch marks to form.
When will stretch marks appear and where?
While stretch marks generally become visible during the last trimester of pregnancy (around the sixth or seventh month), some women will start to see them forming as soon as their bellies start growing. Most lighter-skinned women tend to develop pinkish stretch marks, whereas darker-skinned women tend to have stretch marks that are lighter than the surrounding skin. Most women develop stretch marks on their abdomen in pregnancy, but it is also common to get stretch marks on the breasts, thighs, hips, lower back and buttocks. While they can appear anywhere on the body, they are most likely to appear in places where larger amounts of fat are stored.
How can I prevent stretch marks?
Whilst there is no guaranteed method against stretch marks during pregnancy, adopting a healthy lifestyle will reduce the chances of these unsightly marks forming on your skin.
Be adequately nourished
Collagen and elastin fibres in the skin are necessary to keep rapidly growing skin taut, and the stronger they are, the less likely they are to break and leave stretch marks. It is therefore necessary to eat right to keep your skin healthy throughout pregnancy.
Recommended skin foods for pregnancy:
- Vitamin C – Citrus fruits, bell peppers, green beans, strawberries, papaya, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes.
- Zinc – Red meats, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, fortified cereals, oysters, dairy products.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – Fortified cereals and breads, meats, fish, eggs, peanuts.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, fortified cereals, eggs.
Be active – keep that circulation going!
Essential for boosting energy levels, reducing mood swings, improving sleep patterns and enhancing one’s overall self-image, exercise can never be over-emphasised when one is pregnant. Exercising improves blood circulation and this in turn may retard the formation of stretch marks. Exercising also keeps the skin elastic and more able to stretch as
Recommended activities for improving circulation:
- Walk it, mama! – Walking is indeed the easiest form of exercise.It is also gentle on your knees. Start slowly and make sure that you stretch well before and after.
- Fancy a swim? – Many health care providers say that swimming is an excellent exercise for pregnant women. It raises your heart rate and keeps
your body supple.
- Yoga – Most forms of yoga will be safe for you and your baby, as long as you are not signing up for an extensive and excessively vigorous program. These days, there are special classes for pregnant women, where you will be sure to not over-do it in stretching.
Keep it moisturised
Even if you haven’t been moisturising before this, the best defence against stretch marks is to ensure that skin maintains its maximum elasticity throughout pregnancy. This is achieved by keeping skin well-hydrated and
supple at all times, starting from as early as possible.
Do use a topically applied product that is specifically formulated to address stretch marks. Apply a moisturising product twice daily or as indicated on the packaging throughout your pregnancy. It’s the best way to ensure that your skin remains well-hydrated and better able to stretch.
There are many products in the market today that can help in reducing the appearance of stretch marks. They come in oil-based or water-based cream or lotions. Oilier products have been known to be more effective in keeping the skin moist and supple, for they provide a barrier which gives better protection against moisture loss. Oil-based products do not need to be re-applied as frequently as water-based ones. Some have added ingredients such as extracts of plants and vitamins to nourish and protect the stretching skin on your tummy, hips, buttocks and thighs.
Stretch marks can happen anywhere!
Although most women experience the formation of stretch marks only around the obviously stretched areas such as the tummy, hips and buttocks, by theory, stretch marks can and will appear anywhere on the body where the skin experiences stretching and pulling. Many women have been taken by surprise by stretch marks that show up on their arms, breasts and even on their calves!
Why take chances? To lessen the possibility of developing stretch marks anywhere on your body, it would be a good idea to moisturise everywhere, twice daily, from as early as possible!