Stretch marks are pinkish streaks in the skin which appear when the baby is growing. They generally appear during the third trimester and might become more prominent during the postpartum period.
“The only thing which I was afraid of more than even gaining weight was having stretch marks”, says Anita Kumar, a 35 year old mother in Noida.” They appear very suddenly. For me I didn’t have any of them till I was 35 weeks pregnant and then suddenly there were these red blood-like rashes on my lower abdomen. It was like they got on my belly overnight.”
Stretch marks appears on 8 out of 10 pregnant women in India. Apart from belly they can also form on hips, thighs basically all those body parts which grow rapidly in your second and third trimester.
Why do stretch marks appear?
Stretch marks appear when your body grows fast enough and your skin’s elasticity is not enough to cope up with it. This causes the tissues beneath the skin surface to tear up.
You gain around 10-15 kgs during pregnancy, especially after the first trimester.
“A healthy woman should gain weight gradually split over the last 6 months.” says Aditi Gupta, gynaecologist based in Jaipur,Rajasthan. “Eating for two is a myth. You probably don’t need any extra calories during first trimester, a mere 300 calories more during second trimester and around 500-600 calories more during your third trimester.”
Don’t worry about counting your calories your body will itself tell you how much it needs. Just don’t go overboard and fall into your loved one’s extra food pampering. Stick to what your hunger tells you. Any extra will not do you any good.
Weight gain is concentrated around your belly and hip portion. Extra body mass around your hip portion and thigh region is important so as to support your tummy.
What increases the chances of getting stretch marks?
- Genetics: If your mother has stretch marks there are high chances you will get them. If your mother’s skin passed smooth through her delivery then you will also probably pass through your childbirth with skin tight as a baby’s butt.
- Age: If you are a teen mum you will probably get stretch marks. This is because your hormonal puberty changes might interfere with the pregnancy.
- Normal weight gain: If you normally gain and lose weight quickly than others around you. You will probably end up having stubborn stretch marks.
- If you already have stretch marks because of puberty changes you might get them during pregnancy too.
- You have excess amniotic fluid. Don’t worry if this is just another term you don’t know. It’s okay to have it in excess. You will lose all of it after your delivery.
How to prevent stretch marks?
Now stretch marks can’t be diminished like magic. Consistency and patience are important.
Stretch marks forms when skin cracks from deep within. You can literally feel your skin crack when you get them. That’s why it’s important for any cream or product to work from that deep for your skin.
There is a huge market for stretch marks because companies know women are looking for them extensively.
Most of them won’t work since they have low absorbency rate and just form a thick layer on your skin. This makes you feel that it is moisturising and will fill in the cracks. In reality they won’t. They will either move around the upper layer of your skin or will not seep in at all. Just because they are greasy and oily doesn’t mean they are working.
Let’s take an example of petroleum jelly. Any product containing this and claiming that it will heal your streaks is blatantly lying.
All the lotions available don’t go deep into the skin either + they are full of harmful chemicals.
Natural oils are a good option but not all of them absorbs into the skin at the same rate.
- Very fast absorption: Rosehip Oil, Hazelnut Oil
- Fast Absorption: Camellia Seed Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil, Passionfruit oil
- Medium Absorption: Jojoba oil, Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter
- Slow Absorption: Coconut Oil, Flaxseed Oil, Almond Oil etc.
Applying Vitamin serums and fast absorption oils daily on your belly will moisturise the cracks forming due to growing baby, thus eliminating stretch marks appearance.
P.S.- The ones which have links attached to them are the ones which are fast absorption oils that are considered safe to use during pregnancy. You can also use cocoa butter, shea butter or coconut oil above them if you want that extra greasy feeling on your belly just to control that urge of scratching.
Try this Motherlove Pregnant Belly Salve which has both Rosehips and Apricot Oil + added moisturisation of organic shea butter.
Drink plenty of water. Hydration is the key. Nothing can beat nourishment from inside.
Proteins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and antioxidants are the most essential for your body.
Protein helps in building collagen. Collagen is a substance which helps your body to produce more elasticity. The more elasticity , the less breaking of tissues underneath your skin and hence less stretch marks.
Having at least 70 grammes of protein is essential for a pregnant lady.
Rest of the nutrients can be had by eating 3-4 serving of fruits and 1-2 serving of nuts daily.
Basically a healthy diet beats all. Once you start having a balanced nutritional diet you will not have to worry about any of the nutritional deficiencies.
Try to do some Kegel exercises, yoga or pilates. Basically, move your body but in a comfortable position. Get consultancy on what exercises are best for you.
Exfoliate and moisturize your skin particularly belly, hips and thighs. You can even try dry brushing for removing dead cells. Exfoliation can help clean up the dry and dead skin from the belly so that the oils and serums are able to moisturise those cracks better. So, do exfoliate your belly. You can try scrubs from companies such as Belli or Blissful who make pregnancy safe products or just try DIY’s like honey+coffee, sugar+olive oil for your belly.
How to fade or completely eliminate them?
If you are regularly applying the above-mentioned products there is a very high chance that you might not even get stretch marks and even if they come it will gradually vanish away during the postpartum period.
But, we have to realise that everyone’s body is different. Even though what we have talked about makes sense and is the best natural way to curb almost 90% of the stretch marks there might be some stubborn ones which will not want to go away.
If they don’t
- Try a cream specifically one with hyaluronic acid and onion extract.
- Try laser treatments but do consult your doctor before going through them.
- Milder treatments like dermabrasion can help a lot.
- Try mild stretching exercises so as to rejuvenate and relax the skin.
Like all the other rapid changes stretch marks are a sudden change too so just start taking care of your belly from the first trimester. Don’t wait till you reach the end. As I said, moisturising your skin from within takes time, so start as early as possible. Try it and tell us about your experience in the comments section below.