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What Can You Do About Stretch Marks in Pregnancy?

What causes stretch marks in pregnancy?

What happens is that during pregnancy your hormones can soften the fibers of your skin.  This makes it more prone to stretch marks.

This can lead to stretch marks on the abdomen as the baby grows and the skin stretches.

At the same time, stretch marks can also develop on thighs and breasts as they get bigger.

Of course the timeline for the development of stretch marks will be different for everyone - but the first sign could be some itching.

Hormonal changes can also be a factor during pregnancy, altering the production of elastin and collagen and causing skin to lose elasticity and tear more easily.

The good news is that stretch marks do not cause any harm nor any medical problems.  It is all about whether their appearance worries you.  Some mothers carry their stretch marks as a badge of honor.  

 

Are there different types of stretch marks in pregnancy?

Yes, there are two types:

  • Red stretch marks known as striae rubra which is when the blood vessels become visible because of the stretching of the dermal layer of the skin.
  • White stretch marks known as striae alba which appear where those blood vessels recede and leave the fat beneath the dermal layer to show through with its silvery white appearance.

 

How can stretch marks in pregnancy be prevented?

You can’t always prevent stretch marks occurring, especially during pregnancy.  This skin condition is very common with stretch marks affecting some eight out of ten pregnant women. 

While you are more likely to get stretch marks if your weight gain is higher than average during pregnancy, every woman gains weight differently so there are no official guidelines as to how much weight you should gain.

It is most important to eat a healthy balanced diet to help keep your weight gain to a safe level for you and your baby. Most women put on between 10kg (22lb) and 12.5kg (28lb) during their pregnancy, although this varies from woman to woman.

If you can gain the weight steadily instead of in fits and starts during your pregnancy, this can help reduce the effect of stretch marks.  It can be a fine line between "eating for two" and not eating enough - leading to nutritional deficiencies that can endanger both the mother and her unborn child.

While the appearance of stretch marks can be difficult for some women and affect their confidence, don't be tempted to try and lose weight while you're pregnant as this is not healthy for you or your baby.

 

What are the different options for treating stretch marks conventionally?

Laser stretch mark removal is when the marks are removed via laser resurfacing, removing the outer layer of skin to help restructure the overlying skin.  During the procedure, beams of light are used in concentrated amounts to encourage new growth while helping to smooth the skin.  Two types of lasers are used: ablative and non-ablative lasers.  The former treat stretch marks by destroying the upper layer of skin while instead the latter will target the underlying areas of the skin’s surface to promote collagen growth from the inside out.  This type of treatment is costly but non invasive so recovery time is quick but it can take several months to see the full results.

Surgical removal of stretch marks is the only permanent stretch mark removal option although not all areas of the body can be surgically treated.  As most stretch marks appear on the stomach, an abdominoplasty (also known as a tummy tuck) can be performed on those who have lost a lot of weight with excess loose skin in the stomach and lower abdominal area.  This procedure tightens the abdominal muscles, meaning that any stretch marks around the belly button or below are also removed along with any excess skin during surgery.  A surgical scar is a likely result but it should be smaller than any stretch mark and there is only one procedure necessary.  The surgery entails having a general anesthetic and is of course costly.

Another option is a chemical peel which is most often used to help diminish wrinkles. During a chemical peel, a solution is applied to the affected area of skin.  Depending on the type of chemicals used and their strength, they remove layers of damaged tssue.  Multiple peel treatments may be necessary to help the stretch marks fade.

 

How can you treat stretch marks in pregnancy, naturally?

While stretch marks will sometimes fade away with time, natural ways can help to speed up the process.

  • A healthy diet with whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals to both prevent stretch marks with good skin health and to maintain even weight increase in pregnancy. Vitamin E helps maintain good skin health including preserving the collagen and maintaining the skin's elasticity. Vitamin D has an endless list of health benefits including many for the skin.
  • Avoid alcohol because, apart from it being detrimental to the health and development of your unborn child, it leads to drier skin which can increase the risk of stretch marks.
  • Regular exercise helps avoid too much weight gain while helping to keep the skin in good condition.
  • Rub Aloe Vera twice a day on "likely to be affected" areas of the skin with its moisturizing, cooling and healing qualities.
  • Fresh lemon juice can boost the amount of collagen the skin produces with its high levels of vitamin C. Apply to the skin by using the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon. Leave on for 15 to 20 minutes before washing off with cold water.
  • Egg whites containing protein and some amino acids can help the healing process while lightening their appearance. Method is to whip 2 egg whites into a paste, apply to stretch marks and allow to dry before washing off with lukewarm water - once a week.
  • Drink plenty of filtered water to stay hydrated and help prevent stretch marks in the first place by providing the skin with sufficient moisture so that any marks will not appear in the first place. We share earlier posts on drinking water to help you know how much to drink and how to enjoy it when you do.
    • Coconut oil with its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties can be used in so many ways for health improvements including applying to areas prone to stretch marks, moisturizing, exfoliating the outer layer and improving elasticity.
    • Natural Essential Oils including our own H-Stretch Marks Formula which is a safe and effective natural stretch marks alternative helping to reduce the appearance of stretch marks on the arms, breasts, stomach, hips, buttocks and thighs.

     

    This link will take you to our gallery of images for various skin conditions while you can find out more information on stretch marks here.

    Sources

    Donejko M, et al. (2014). Influence of caffeine and hyaluronic acid on collagen biosynthesis in human skin fibroblasts.
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4206198/. (Accessed, Feb 15, 2021)

    El-Domyati M, et al. (2016). Microdermabrasion: A clinical, histometric, and histopathologic study. DOI:
    doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12252 .(Accessed, Feb 15, 2021)

    Kang S, et al. (1996). Topical tretinoin (retinoic acid) improves early stretch marks.
    archderm.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=557725(Accessed, Feb 15, 2021)

    Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Stretch marks.
    mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stretch-marks/symptoms-causes/dxc-20169157(Accessed, Feb 15, 2021)