Stretch marks are a very common side effect of being pregnant. As the skin stretches to accommodate your growing baby, it leaves behind very distinctive, permanent scars. While it’s not totally guaranteed you’ll develop them, the majority of pregnant women do.
Understandably, these marks can be embarrassing, with many women feeling ashamed of their “scars”. The fact they are completely natural and most pregnant women develop them doesn’t always make you feel any better!
So, is it possible to avoid stretch marks during pregnancy? Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know.
Why Do Stretch Marks Form In Pregnancy?
The main reason stretch marks form during pregnancy is because the skin isn’t able to keep up with the rate your body is growing. As your bump gets forever bigger, the skins elasticity is stretched way beyond what it can deal with. This leads to scarring within the deeper layers of skin.
You’ll typically notice stretch marks start off either red or purple in color. They often appear more like scratches when they first develop. However, over time they do fade and turn more of a silver color.
They can appear anywhere on the body which experiences rapid weight gain. However, in pregnancy they largely crop up on the stomach, breasts and thighs.
When Do They Start Developing?
Stretch marks tend to appear more during the third trimester, although they can start in the first trimester. Your breasts are typically the first things which start to grow at a somewhat alarming rate. So, you may first notice them developing in the breasts.
When the stomach starts to grow, stretch marks can also start to appear pretty quickly. However, you will typically notice they’re worse near to the end of the pregnancy.
Can You Avoid Them?
So, now you know why they occur and when they usually start to develop, the question is can you avoid them?
The good news is, it is sometimes possible to avoid stretch marks from developing. While it’s not 100% guaranteed the tips below will help to improve your chances of preventing them.
1. Make Sure You Drink Plenty Of Water
Staying hydrated is one of the key tips to avoiding stretch marks during pregnancy. It’s also extremely important for your health! Pregnant women are advised to drink a lot more water each day than they normally would, equating to around 12 cups a day, rather than the general 8 recommended daily glasses.
So, how does water help to prevent stretch marks? Well, keeping yourself hydrated really helps to keep the skin supple. It supports the skins elasticity, which you’re going to need if you want to prevent stretch marks!
2. Invest In A Good Cream
As well as keeping the body hydrated internally, it’s also important to hydrate the skin from the outside too. So, you’re going to want to invest in a good cream or moisturizer. Ideally, you’ll want creams which contain either Vitamin A or Vitamin E. While they aren’t proven to prevent stretch marks, they are known to help keep the skin supple and reduce the appearance of any stretch marks which may develop.
The act of actually rubbing the cream into the skin can also help. If you apply it in a massage motion, it will help to boost circulation (something which is also known to help prevent stretch marks).
3. Eat Healthy And Stay Active
As stretch marks are caused when you put on excess weight quickly, a good way to prevent them is to eat healthy and stay active.
There’s a tendency for pregnant women to “eat for two”. While it’s true you do need some additional calories, you don’t actually need as many as you might think. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will really help to stop you from gaining too much weight, reducing your risk of stretch marks.
Similarly, keeping active, especially during the early stages of pregnancy, will really help to reduce the likelihood of you gaining too much weight. While you may need to switch up the type of exercise you usually do, there’s no reason you can’t continue to exercise throughout the pregnancy.
4. Increase Your Vitamin Consumption
Certain vitamins are known to be really helpful at preventing stretch marks. Take Vitamin C for example. Used by the body to develop cartilage and collagen, Vitamin C is great at fighting off free radicals. These are known to literally consume collagen, which in turn will minimize the skin’s elasticity.
Vitamin D can also be useful at preventing stretch marks. There’s actually been research conducted which has shown a healthy level of Vitamin D can greatly reduce the risk of stretch marks from developing. However, it’s not as easy to boost you Vitamin D levels as very few foods contain it. Instead, you’ll need to spend a lot of time outdoors, soaking up the sun’s rays. Just be careful not to burn!
Finally, Vitamin E is another vitamin you’ll want to add to your body during pregnancy. It is said to boost collagen production, making the skin much more elastic. It’s worth noting that it may not prevent stretch marks from forming, but when used early enough it can potentially stop them from scarring.
You can take supplements to increase your vitamin consumption. However, it is better to get these vitamins (besides Vitamin D), from fresh food sources.
5. Consider Natural Remedies
Of course, you can also try out the numerous natural remedies on offer. Coconut oil and olive oil are especially worth trying. Coconut oil acts as an excellent natural moisturizer. It penetrates into the skin quickly, keeps it hydrated and it also contains vitamin E, as well as fatty acids which are great for the skin.
Olive oil also contains vitamin E, along with many healing compounds and antioxidants. You’ll want to choose extra virgin olive oil for best results. Both of these oils need to be massaged into the skin in a circular motion and can be used as a preventative measure, or as an effective way to minimize existing stretch marks.
So, it may be possible to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy if you follow the tips above. However, they may still develop as no remedy is 100% guaranteed. What is known, is that the earlier you take preventative measures like the ones above, the more chance the stretch marks will disappear after the pregnancy.