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How to prevent and treat pregnancy stretch marks during and after pregnancy…
Are you expecting? Congratulations! You must be very excited about welcoming to this world that little bundle of joy from your belly. I bet you are also nervous, as everything inside you, on you and around you changes.
Babies really have ways to turn your world upside down. Many, many charming, wonderful ways. And some not so wonderful. As your belly grows, pregnancy stretch marks are one of the baby’s first marks on your body. Like you need a reminder you are a mommy now and nothing will be the same again.
Since pregnancy stretch marks are usually there to stay, you may want to take some time and limit the damage as much as possible. After all, soon after your baby arrives, you’ll want to feel like yourself again and you don’t want these dreaded stripes on your way.
What Are Pregnancy Stretch Marks?
Pregnancy stretch marks are long, thin lines on the surface of your skin, a representation of tiny cracks in your skin’s connective tissue. They appear when your body expands faster than your skin can follow.
As your belly rapidly grows and you’re gaining weight in other areas as well, your skin is getting stretched beyond its limits. The raptures in your skin form and expand, and what you get are scar-like formations spreading across the most affected areas.
Though pregnancy stretch marks are nothing to be ashamed of and many women wear them proudly, they certainly affect a lot the way your body looks. Pink, red or purple in the beginning, pregnancy stretch marks do fade eventually to a lighter, less noticeable color.
Since most women get them during pregnancy, you can pretty much expect them in your second trimester to show up across your stomach. And on your breast, thighs, butt and hips, if you gain some extra weight.
What causes stretch marks during pregnancy?
Though you can’t really predict whether you’ll get pregnancy stretch marks or not, there are a couple of factors that can make it more likely for you to get them:
- fast, sudden weight gain (as opposed to slowly, steadily gaining little by little weight);
- how much your body grows (gaining a lot of weight, carrying a big baby or multiples);
- the elasticity of your skin (as a general rule, well moisturized skin is more flexible and stretches easier, with significantly less damage).
Can You Prevent Pregnancy Stretch Marks?
Though it is not quite clear whether you can completely prevent stretch marks or just make them less noticeable, experts agree that proper, consistent care is crucial.
Pregnancy stretch marks usually don’t start to appear before the second trimester, when your body starts to rapidly expand. That gives you a few months to properly prepare your skin for what’s coming.
Well moisturized skin is plump, supple and elastic. It better deals with the trauma the sudden stretching brings. That is why it is crucial to start moisturizing your belly as soon as you find out you are pregnant. The sooner the better, really; that way, by the time your belly starts to grow, your skin is as prepared as it can be.
You should moisturize your skin at least 3 times a day (desperate times… :-)). These are some of the best products for preventing and treating pregnancy stretch marks:
- Mederma Stretch Marks Therapy
- Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter
- Body Boost Milk & Honey Stretch Mark Butter
- SheaTerra Mama’s Gold Stretch Mark Prevention & Treatment Oil
If you’d rather try some all-natural solution for preventing pregnancy stretch marks (many women turn to an almost holistic lifestyle during pregnancy), that’s completely fine. Natural oils are some of the best moisturizers anyway.
Try out coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, castor oil or sweet almond oil. You can use these oils separately, make custom combinations or use them to make DIY Body Lotion or Whipped Body Butter. Just be careful with the essential oils you use, since some of them are not safe for the baby. (Read more here.)
What you can add is a bit of vitamin E oil. Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant that protects the skin from free radicals. It also tones the skin, makes it supple and improves its elasticity, so it is a great addition to whichever moisturizer you are using.
Exfoliation is a very important step of any beauty routine. It removes a layer of dead, dry skin cells and that way encourages new cell growth. Since it promotes skin renewal process, it can help you a lot to prevent pregnancy stretch marks.
DIY sugar scrubs are probably your best option. Sugar is a great skin moisturizer that encourages collagen production and that way enhances the firmness of your skin. Here’s how to make your own sugar scrub:
DIY Sugar Scrub for Preventing Pregnancy Stretch Marks
- white sugar – 1 cup
- brown sugar – 1 cup
- coconut oil – 1 cup
- vitamin E oil – 1 – 2 tsp.
All you have to do is mix all the ingredients to get the consistency of wet sand. (You can replace coconut oil with any other skin-friendly plant oil.) Transfer your scrub to a clean, dry glass container and keep it in a cool, dry place. Use it a few times a week during your shower.
Apply it to the wet skin and exfoliate your whole body with it, especially the areas where pregnancy stretch marks usually appear. Then rinse the scrub off, finish your shower as usual and apply a moisturizer while your skin is still slightly damp.
You can also try out some of these DIY Coffee Scrubs. They are great for treating cellulite along with stretch marks.
The more weight you gain, the more your skin needs to stretch and the more stretch marks you get. A healthy, balanced diet not only helps with pregnancy stretch marks, but also with yours and your baby’s health.
Just remember you’re not actually eating for two (Does anyone actually believe an unborn baby can eat as much as a grown man?) and that quality, not quantity, of what you eat is important.
Other than that, drink a lot of water. Hydrate your skin from the inside and your moisturizer’s job will be much easier.
While you are pregnant, opportunities to keep yourself in shape are limited in more than one way. But that doesn’t mean you should give up altogether.
There are still great programs and sets of exercises for pregnant women. And once you find what works for you, whether simple stretches, Pilates, yoga, swimming or simply long walks, you’ll find that not only you look better, but you feel much better as well.
Here are some great suggestions for no equipment workout that is suitable for all trimesters.
How to Treat Pregnancy Stretch Marks After Birth?
So, you got your baby, your stomach flattened, but your stretch marks are still there. First of all, don’t worry – pregnancy stretch marks usually significantly reduce over time. Especially if you’ve done as much as you could during the pregnancy.
Second, continue everything you have been doing. You still need to exfoliate and moisturize your skin regularly. And you should eat healthy and exercise anyway, pregnancy stretch marks or not.
Try to find a good trainer to help you gradually get back into your usual workout routine. (Or to start one, if you haven’t been exercising before. You’ll need it for running after your kid :-).)
Other than that, there are a couple of effective treatments for removing pregnancy stretch marks. You shouldn’t use them during pregnancy since they could harm your baby, but you can try them out once you stop breastfeeding.
Retin-A is probably the most popular after-pregnancy treatment for stretch marks. It is a stronger, more effective version of Retinol and you need a prescription for it.
It takes it a while to start working, but Retin-A has shown some amazing results in reducing pregnancy stretch marks, especially those that are less than a year old. Retin-A cream exfoliates the skin and improves collagen production.
When using Retin-A, it is important to follow the directions your dermatologist gives you. Since these products pretty much remove the outermost layer of the surface of the skin, you can expect side effects like skin peeling, dryness and redness. These side effects are temporary and not dangerous in any way.