Many things change after you have a baby: schedules, sleep time, and sense of freedom, to name a few. Along with a changing schedule, there are the many physical changes you will see as well. Among them are stretch marks. For many women, stretch marks are as much a part of having a baby, like diapers and feedings.
Stretch marks occur when your body grows faster than your skin can keep up with. This causes the elastic fibers just under the surface of the skin to break, resulting in stretch marks. You gain about 30 pounds during the 9 months that you are pregnant. Growing that fast can leave you with stretch marks, especially on your belly and breasts, two areas that grow the most. Stretch marks can also show up on the thighs, buttocks, and upper arms. The marks often start out reddish or purple, but after pregnancy they gradually fade to white or gray.
Experts say that women who are at a healthy weight should gain 25-35 pounds. In other words, when it comes to stretch marks, how quickly you gain may be as important as how much you gain.
If you have them, you are in good company. About 90% of women will get them sometime after their sixth or seventh month of pregnancy. If your mother had stretch marks, then you are more likely to have them too, since genetics plays a role.
If you have a lighter complexion, you will tend to develop pinkish stretch marks. Darker-skinned women tend to get stretch marks that are lighter than their skin tone.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent stretch marks. There is not a cream, lotion, or “mommy” balm that can do that, and if that is the claim on the bottle, do not be fooled.
Here are some things you can do to try and prevent stretch marks:
Gelatin is a great way to prevent stretch marks. Collagen formation is essential in improving your skin’s elasticity. In order to increase your skins collagen formation you can eat gelatin to get more collagen through your diet. Another name for collagen is gelatin. Today our diets are severely lacking in gelatin. You can combat this by making bone broth, which you can drink plain every morning. Use it to make gravies, soups, sauces, and casseroles. Use it to boil your rice in; it gives it great flavor.
Keep your body well hydrated. During pregnancy your blood volume is increasing, and you are building a huge water sack for your baby to stay in. This means your body has an increased demand for hydration. Your skin also needs to be hydrated for optimal elasticity. It is recommended that you get 8-12 glasses of water each day. Mostly however, pay attention to how you are feeling. Dry lips or throat is a sure sign of dehydration. Tiredness, headaches, or a lack of concentration can also be a sign that you are dehydrated.
Coconut oil’s ability to nourish the skin has been known—especially in the tropics—for centuries. Coconut oil is full of saturated fatty acids, which consists primarily of medium chain fatty acids. These types of fatty acids are not easily oxidized, and because of this, they do not cause harmful free radical damage. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, on the other hand, are easily oxidized and are therefore more likely to cause free radical damage to the skin, consuming valuable collagen and elastin. This is not only true for the oils we put on our skin, but also the oils we consume. One of the reasons we have so many skin problems is because we have switched our dietary oils.
Coconut oil can be easily applied topically. It is best to apply right after a shower to keep the moisture in.
The body uses Vitamin C to form collagen and cartilage. Vitamin C is also highly effective in reducing free radical damage. It’s best to get Vitamin C from a natural food source instead of a supplement. Foods high in vitamin C include red and green bell peppers, guava, kale, parsley greens, turnips, and broccoli.
Beneficial oils include olive oil, Vitamin E oil, essential oils, and castor oil. Vitamin E oil can help improve skin elasticity as well and therefore prevent stretch marks. Most of these oils work because of their antioxidant properties, which reduce free radical damage.
Zinc deficiency is one reason people are more likely to get stretch marks. Zinc is a natural trace mineral and one of the most abundant in the body. It is also used in the production of collagen and also contains antioxidant properties. Zinc can be found in abundance in chicken, lamb, beef, eggs, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
It’s always a good idea to keep your skin hydrated with a rich lotion or cream, especially if it makes your skin feel better, look smoother and more toned, and helps the itchiness that can come with your growing belly. It also helps to keep your body hydrated.
While some stretch marks naturally fade to faint, silvery lines, others remain darker and more noticeable. The best time to treat the marks is while they are still in that reddish stage. Gels made with a mix of onion extract and hyalaurnic acid may help. In some studies, people using the gel said their marks faded after 12 weeks of daily use
Another option is a retinoid, which your dermatologist can prescribe. This can speed up cell turnover and can stimulate new collagen growth, leading to healthier skin. You cannot use a retinoid if you are pregnant or breastfeeding though, so this may be an option after pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Other in-office treatments include lasers that heat the skin. This boosts collagen growth and shrinks dilated blood vessels. It may take a number of sessions to see results. Gentler processes such as dermabrasion can also help renew the skin, but do not expect a big change.
Some women forego these treatments, simply accepting and celebrating the new skin they are in now that the baby has arrived.