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Preventing and Treating Stretch Marks in Pregnancy

Katlyn Joy |18, December 2011


Preventing and Treating Stretch Marks in Pregnancy

Stretch marks are a badge of honor for women who have given birth, at least for half of them. These long marks on the skin vary in color, from pinks to browns or silvers. The shade depends to the most part, on your skin tone. Most stretch marks will fade over time, but never completely disappear.

What Causes Stretch Marks?

This tearing of the second layer of skin, called the dermis, results from rapid growth in puberty, hormonal changes, weight changes, and the most common reason: pregnancy. The areas hardest hit by all the stretching, abdomen, breasts, hips and buttocks, are likely targets for stretch marks. These marks represent places where the skin stretched too far and the collagen tore from the skin. In pregnancy, stretch marks usually occur in the third trimester.

Risk Factors for Stretch Marks

Genetics are a main risk factor. If your mom or sister got stretch marks while expecting, you should be prepared to have a similar experience. Other factors include being overweight prior to the pregnancy, gaining more than the recommended 25-25 pounds while pregnant, or carrying multiples. If you are pregnant with a large baby or have excess amniotic fluid you may also have an increased risk of stretch marks. Teen mothers are also at a higher risk for them.

What to Do While Pregnant

Eat healthy and exercise to keep your weight gain within limits and try to avoid binging and rapid weight gain. Keep your skin hydrated to avoid itchiness of the belly. Cocoa butter, vitamin E and essential oils are all recommended but not proven methods to prevent the formation of stretch marks. However, they won't do any harm either and the gentle massaging motion may be relaxing for mother and infant alike.

Many women swear by cocoa butter or some cream or ointment, and have proof in that they never developed stretch marks. However, it may simply be that they are in the lucky 50% of expectant mothers who never would have developed stretch marks in the first place.

What to Do After Pregnancy?

Stretch marks are generally considered permanent so removing them takes more serious treatment than creams or lotions, at least according to most medical sources.The sooner stretch marks are treated by a dermatologist, the better the outcome. Generally a treatment for stretch marks would include a pulsed dye laser or IPL, or intense pulse light.

Special creams specially formulated for stretch marks are on the market, but have conflicting reports of success. However, the sooner they are treated the better the rates of success. Just be certain to use them under a doctor's supervision if you are breastfeeding. Some medications, even topical creams, can get into breast milk.

However, these treatments do not cure the saggy skin that may not bounce back even after you lose the baby pounds. For this type of problem many women seek a tummy tuck to remove the excess, stretched out skin that no amount of sit ups will firm up.

Yet you must remember you just did an amazing thing. You carried a new life into the world and your body is now forever changed. Try to be proud of your new body, your changed figure as it is all part of becoming a mother and creating that new little being.

If you don't treat the stretch marks, you can expect them to be much less noticeable as they will fade greatly by the 12 month mark postpartum. Sometimes even bright pink lines will mellow from their harsh tone to a creamy silvery white with time.

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