During pregnancy a woman constantly struggles with countless health issues related to her wellbeing. Sometimes it’s ongoing physical changes which keep her awake and many times the culprits are glitches related to her skin and beauty. One such common glitch which is a cause of concern among most of the pregnant women is – stretch marks.
How do stretch marks appear during pregnancy?
Medically referred to as striae distensae or striae gravidarum, stretch marks appear when the skin of the body stretches beyond what it can accommodate and manifest themselves as indented streaks on the body.
Stretch marks usually occur during pregnancy your body starts growing rapidly and your skin enlarges and stretches very fast in order to accommodate your growing baby. These marks usually appear on your abdomen but in some women they can also appear on breasts and thighs. Stretch marks generally appear during last trimester of pregnancy when a woman’s belly begins to grow rapidly. In the starting phase they are pink or purple in color but will eventually fade to the silver or white lines to match the color of your skin.
Do all women develop stretch marks during pregnancy?
It may be noted here that not all women develop stretch marks during pregnancy. Factors like genetics, skin condition and weight gain play a vital role in determining whether or not you will have them. If your mother had them, it is likely you would have them too.
According to the NHS website, about 8 out of 10 women get stretch marks during pregnancy, and they are not necessarily only on the abdomen but also on thighs, hips, chest and bottoms.
When do stretch marks begin to form in pregnancy?
The appearance of stretch marks is usually noticed during the last trimester, when the baby puts on the maximum weight and the body stretches itself to accommodate the growing baby. However, you may experience stretch marks on your breasts much early, because breasts start to expand during the first trimester itself. Your tights may show these streaks towards the second trimester when you put on weight.
On the whole, stretch marks appear at different times on different parts of the body. There is no set rule, and as and when you put on weight, you may notice your skin stretching and getting the purplish streaks.
How to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy?
Once they are formed it’s difficult to treat them so in order to reduce their appearance you must start early, even before you notice the first sign – itchiness. In case of stretch marks prevention is better than cure. Hence here is a comprehensive list of preventing methods -which you can use to prevent the formation of stretch marks.
1. Keep your skin well-moisturized
Our skin is made up of soft elastic tissue known as elastin, which is responsible for making the skin soft and stretchable. During pregnancy over-stretching of skin damages the elastin due to which stretch marks are formed. Moisturizing your skin daily especially after taking the bath will keep the dryness and itchiness at bay, it will keep the skin hydrated and will reduce the chances of tear at the time of stretching.
You could use shea butter, Vaseline, coconut oil, vitamin E cream or oil or any other cream or oil that have a good moisturizing effect. Massage the affected area with the cream for 2-5 minutes. The massage will stimulate blood flow and help your skin absorb the cream better. Start doing this during the early stages of pregnancy itself, to avoid getting stretch marks later.
2. Control your weight – Don’t eat for two
All of us pregnant women have heard that once you are pregnant you must start eating for two. As a matter of fact, a growing baby just demands an extra 300 calories, which is equivalent to calories in an apple!
Gaining too much weight during pregnancy is the most common cause of stretch marks in women. Moreover, when you gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes or having a large baby that warrants a need for a C-section increases.
Try to eat healthy and balanced diet as it will help you to achieve a gradual weight gain due to which your skin will stretch gently and it will lessen your chances of having stretch marks.
3. Massage your body with Oil rich in vitamin E
In order to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy it’s essential to take care of your skin. Start massaging your body with oil that contains Vitamin E as body massage of oil will improve your skin’s blood circulation and vitamin E will help in producing the collagen and new skin cells.
Vitamin E is present in various oils such as olive oil, wheat germ oil and sunflower oil. Daily massage with any of them can boost your cell regeneration process and moisturizing effects of these vitamins can hydrate skin cells which will ultimately avert the appearance of the stretch marks.
4. Apply Sandalwood paste
Sandal wood also known as shweth chandan is also an effective preventive method for dealing with stretch marks as it has a cooling effect on the skin and it guards the skin from stretching too much during pregnancy. Always apply the paste before body massage or bath and use it two or three times in a week.
5. Drink plenty of water
You read it right, regular consumption of eight to ten glasses of water daily can help you a lot in preventing stretch marks. Drinking plenty of water will keep your body well hydrated and will also increase the elasticity of skin- which is very helpful in preventing the stretch marks.
You may find it tough to gulp down water if you are not into the habit of drinking it, but now that you are pregnant, you need to drink water to stay hydrated. Drinking enough water also keeps constipation at bay and prevents urinary tract infections during the gestation period.
Regular intake of water does not only flush the harmful toxins out of your body but also keep your skin well moisturized. A well moisturized skin will prevent the formation of stretch marks.
6. Eat right Vitamins- Vitamin A, C, E and Zinc
In order to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy it’s important to eat food that are rich in Vitamin A, E, C and zinc as they help to form collagen.
- Vitamin A: It is an essential component for the growth and health of skin, bones, nails, and hair. It also helps in repairing the injured skin, and at the same time increase the collagen content in the skin. Taking supplements of vitamin A should be avoided as high doses can cause birth defects and liver toxicity. However, you can take it as much as you want from fruits and vegetables such as spinach and carrots
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C specifically is an important antioxidant that helps in synthesis of collagen, which plays a very important part in prevention of stretch marks. It can be found in citrus fruits like oranges and lemon
- Vitamin E: it helps in preserving the health of skin tissue and membranes. Vitamin E is found in food items such as carrots, oatmeal, soybeans, tomatoes, hazelnut and asparagus
- Zinc: Other than vitamin C zinc is perhaps, the most vital vitamin to take for the prevention of stretch marks as it has the most important property – production of collagen. It can be found in the food items like low fat yoghurt, spinach and chicken breast
7. Stay active and exercise
Pregnant women are advised to do low impact exercises all through their pregnancy. Do not take pregnancy as the chance to just eat and sleep! Keep up with your walks, stay active, go for swimming or do yoga from the comfort of your home. Exercising during pregnancy has many benefits.
Doing even small amount of exercise during pregnancy can improve your blood circulation, which will maintain your skin elasticity and will allow your skin to stretch with your growing baby. Apart for this exercising regularly will help you to gain weight slowly and steadily there will be no rapid weight gain thus less chances of forming stretch marks.
You will find numerous merchandise in the market which claim to be helping pregnant women from getting any stretch marks during or after pregnancy but in reality whether you will get stretch marks or not will totally depend upon your skin’s elasticity. If you will take good measures for improving the elasticity of your skin than probably you will not get any stretch marks or severe stretch marks. So take good care of your skin and stay healthy.