Stretch marks, tiger stripes, pregnancy badges of honor, no matter what you call them, they might be in your future. As your body changes and begins to grow, there is a chance you may be facing the dreaded stretch marks. These marks tend to appear on your abdomen, rear end, thighs, hips, and breasts around the 14th week of pregnancy (or later). Ninety percent of all pregnant women will get some stretch marks somewhere at some point. Whether or not you get stretch marks has more to do with your genetics than anything else; asking your mother if she got them can be a good indicator of whether or not you will, but you won't know for sure until your pregnancy is over.
Stretch marks result from the stretching and contraction of the skin as your belly grows. Because it grows faster than your skin can adjust to, the skin tears and the resulting scars are what we call stretch marks. Products are often sold as stretch mark prevention because they provide moisture and, theoretically, increased elasticity to the skin so it can expand without tearing. However, these claims are largely unproven, and topical oils and creams can't touch the tearing of deeper skin layers.
While you can't prevent them from happening, and you should look at them as a badge of honor, there are things you can do to help keep your skin healthy and feeling good, which could potentially reduce the number of marks or the severity.
- Staying hydrated is essential for so many reasons when you are pregnant and healthy skin is one. Drinking water regularly helps replenish your amniotic fluid and keeps all your membranes lubricated.
- You can also eat more vitamin C to protect the skin from damage; Vitamin E and C, zinc, and silica, which are necessary for collagen formation; and Vitamins B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (Niacin), which are known for helping create healthy skin. Try to consume these nutrients as food instead of additional vitamins. Do not start taking new vitamins without discussing it with your doctor.
- Watch your weight gain and try to keep it within the normal weight gain for your start weight. Discuss a good target weight for your pregnancy with your caregiver and never "diet" while pregnant unless advised to by your doctor.
- Moisturize liberally and often with the product of your choice, but keep your expectations realistic as they can't magically stop stretch marks from forming.
You can't stop stretch marks from forming. Luckily, however, stretch marks fade with time and become less visible. After your baby is born, a dermatologist may be able to offer solutions to help speed the fading along. Once they are there, they are there, and we think women should learn to embrace them as an indicator of what they have been through and the human they were able to grow.
- American Pregnancy Association - Are Pregnancy Stretch Marks Different?
- American Pregnancy Association - What Can Be Done To Prevent Stretch Marks?