Growing a human in your belly is a remarkable phenomenon. The human body goes through a wide variety of changes in the process — from hormonal to physical to sensory — but the easiest to identify and track is the physical, that is, the size of your stomach.
And while there’s no doubt the body performs wonders in pregnancy, there can be lasting changes that you’re not so keen on.
Enter stretch marks.
Although common in pregnancy, anyone can have stretch marks in any phase of life. Some people are more susceptible to them. If any of your blood relatives has stretch marks, you’re likely to get them too.
What causes stretch marks during pregnancy?
Stretch marks are tiny tears in the supporting tissue layers underneath your skin as it’s stretched to the limit by pregnancy. Whether or not you get them has lots to do with genetics: Chances are, if your mother had them, you likely will too, but if she had smooth skin all through her pregnancies, you’ll likely follow suit. Rapid weight gain due to pregnancy can result in getting stretch marks. And fairer-skinned women are more likely to have stretch marks than those who are dark-skinned.
Even if you’re susceptible to stretch marks, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk and treat the already existing stretch marks.
Use a preventative stretch mark cream
During pregnancy, stretch marks can sprout anywhere – your breasts, belly, butt, hips, and thighs. Because there is not a lot of research on the efficacy of treatments, it’s easier, or better to prevent them than to eradicate them.
You can apply a stretch mark cream as a preventative measure — for best results, begin as soon as you find out you’re pregnant and continue after you give birth.
Stretch mark cream helps fade the marks by improving skin elasticity and smoothing your skin. Using creams like Okana Natural Skincare can be a fantastic way for you to get in touch with your body and give yourself some TLC throughout your pregnancy.
Prenatal belly massage
As with most things, the best “cure” for stretch marks is prevention. While there’s no way to ensure you won’t end up with a zebra-striped tummy while pregnant, you can help reduce the severity of stretch marks. The best advice is daily massage. Start massaging the skin on your belly, hips, and breasts for a few minutes, at least twice a day as soon as you notice your pregnant body growing. This will help prepare the skin for the trauma of stretching.
Watch your weight
Pregnant or not, one way to prevent stretch marks is to maintain a healthy weight. Stretch marks may appear after rapid weight gains, such as during pregnancy or puberty or rapid weight loss. Some, like bodybuilders, develop stretch marks after big gains in body mass. Other people, Working to control rapid body changes from occurring may be your best bet. Eat a healthy diet and exercise to help you manage your weight.
Smoking reduces blood flow to the skin, which deprives it of the oxygen it needs to repair itself. In addition, smoking sucks the nutrients the skin needs to remain healthy.
Smoking releases damaging free radicals, which can break down the collagen and elastin fibres in the skin.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Researchers have not been able to prove there are specific vitamins preventing stretch marks, but evidence shows the skin needs a variety of nutrients, including vitamins A, C, E, and Zinc, to keep healthy. Vegetables and fruits are rich in these and other essential minerals and vitamins.
While laser surgery does not eradicate stretch marks, it can fade them. An even more extreme option is abdominoplasty, an expensive operation that removes excess fat, skin and stretch marks from your belly area.
Don’t Eat for Two
During your pregnancy, your appetite increases, you eat more and weight gain is normal. Pregnant women need to take in extra calories to nourish the baby (about 500 extra calories per day) but make sure these are nutritious calories, not fatty ones. This way, your weight increases gradually and you are able to shed it easily after breastfeeding.
If this list were arranged in order of importance, this one would probably top the list. Nothing is a more natural solution than water! And hydration plays a huge role in many ways for your pregnant body: heat regulation, waste removal, and amniotic fluid regulation. But it helps keep your skin elastic.
The Institute of Medicine suggests pregnant women should consume: “3.0 L/day of total water. You can get fluids from other sources also, but nothing beats the form Mother Nature first created when it comes to staying hydrated.
The Bottom Line
Completely eradicating stretch marks during pregnancy is beyond your control, but you can cut back on the severity. Also, there are treatment options available, although some cannot be started until after birthing, and sometimes even after breastfeeding is done.
It’s safe to err on the side of caution while doing things to your body when your baby is still in your belly.