Between 50 and 90% of pregnant women develop stretch marks during their pregnancy, so if you are noticing stretch marks developing you are far from being alone. They tend to develop most rapidly during the final trimester of the pregnancy when there is the most growth of the baby, but they can develop at any time and in areas other than around your stomach.
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How do Stretch Marks Form In Pregnancy?
Stretch marks are the results of your body growing in size at a rate which the skin cannot keep up with, meaning it stretches beyond its limits of elasticity. They are scars which form deep within the skin layers and usually start out a purple color, eventually fading to a silvery/white color.
Stretch marks are harmless, but sometimes can cause discomfort as they occur, and some women may find that having stretch marks can affect their self-confidence. If you are feeling down about getting stretch marks during pregnancy, remember that it is perfectly normal, and you are among the majority. It will not affect your baby and will become less noticeable with time. They are a sign of the wonderful achievement your body has accomplished.
Which Areas Of The Body Are Most Affected?
Stretch marks can appear anywhere on the body, but during pregnancy, there are certain areas more likely to be affected.
The rapid growth of the baby itself will mean that your stomach area is especially particularly susceptible, but your breasts are also likely to grow rapidly due to the hormone changes, so it is also possible to get stretch marks here.
Other areas which may be affected by the rapid growth and therefore stretch marks during pregnancy are the buttocks, thighs and the lower part of your back and sides.
When Do Stretch Marks Start In Pregnancy?
Stretch marks in different areas may be more likely to occur at different stages of the pregnancy. Your breasts may become larger earlier in the pregnancy, even as early as 6 to 8 weeks in, and they will continue to grow throughout the pregnancy, so you may notice stretch marks here earlier than in other areas. Stretch marks on your stomach may begin to develop between 13 and 21 weeks, or around the time that your bump begins to show, while on your back it may happen later in pregnancy.
There is no set time in which they definitely will or won’t develop as every woman and every pregnancy is different. However, by controlling the weight you put on by staying active and eating a healthy diet (not eating for two!), you may be able to prevent and reduce the formation of stretch marks.
Best Ways to Avoid Stretch Marks In Pregnancy
There are a number of things you can do to prevent stretch marks in pregnancy, but given the nature of the changes your body undergoes it may be easier to use some methods than others. Here are some ways you can help your skin to stay resilient against stretch marks.
Keeping hydrated will help your skin stay supple. Current recommendations are for an average woman to drink at least 8 cups of water per day, which amounts to 64 fluid ounces or just under 2 liters.
In pregnancy, it is suggested you should be drinking 6 to 8 medium cups of fluid per day, which is 40 – 54 fluid ounces or just under 1.2 – 1.6 liters.
This may be easier said than done as morning sickness can make this difficult, but try to sip little and often to maintain your hydration, particularly if you are suffering from morning sickness. Staying hydrated also helps with other elements of your pregnancy, for example preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs), easing headaches and constipation and may reduce fatigue.
Remember that water is the best fluid to drink during pregnancy and that if you were previously a heavy coffee or tea drinker which you have now had to stop, you will need to drink more water to maintain the same level of fluid uptake. If you are struggling to keep hydrated with water, don’t forget that soups, juicy fruit, milk and decaffeinated teas can help you achieve suitable levels of hydration.
milar to staying hydrated, maintaining a healthy diet can be difficult in pregnancy, again due to morning sickness, cravings or food aversion. Certain types of food are particularly good for your skin, including fatty acids like Omega-3 which are found in oily fish, zinc, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. You will likely be paying more attention to your diet while you are pregnant anyway, and the best way to get them into your body is by eating foods rich in them, rather than taking supplements, but this can’t always be helped. Here is a guide to what foods contain the nutrients that are good for your skin:
– Dark Chocolate
– Kidney Beans
– Red Fruits
– Sweet Potato
– Green Tea
– Green Vegetables
– Nuts And Wholegrains
– Fortified Cereals
– Dairy Products
– Yeast Extract
– Saltwater fish
– Red Meat
– Fortified Cereals
– Dark Chocolate
– Swiss Cheese
– Cod Liver Oil
– Chia Seeds
– Brussel Sprouts
Manage Your Weight Gain
Weight gain during pregnancy is inevitable. Women will typically gain between 1 and 5 pounds (0.4-2.2 kg) during the first trimester, and about 1 pound (0.4kg) each subsequent week. It is a common misconception that when pregnant you should eat for two, however, this is not the case.
An average healthy, non-pregnant woman is advised to eat 2000 calories per day, and pregnant women need only increase this by 200 calories per day, although this will be more for those carrying twins. By eating healthily and controlling the weight you put on, you will prevent extra strain being put on your skin and can reduce the formation of stretch marks.
Get Some Vitamin D
A study by Koehler Zanella et al. found a correlation between low levels of vitamin D and the occurrence of stretch marks. While this still requires more research, by including a healthy level of vitamin D in your system you may be able to reduce the formation of stretch marks.
The easiest way to get vitamin D into your body is by absorbing sunlight, but you should take care not to burn. You may also find your tolerance of the sun becomes lower because your body feels warmer. Some foods such as cereals, dairy, fish and some types of bread contain vitamin D to help with your intake.
Throughout your pregnancy, you can massage topical creams or oils into your higher risk areas. Many products can be bought which hydrate your skin and aid resilience and healing of skin tissues, and the massage will help your skin absorb them by stimulating blood flow.
Products such as those containing shea butter, vitamin E and aloe vera may be most effective.
You can use these products throughout your pregnancy, to prevent stretch marks from developing as this will be most effective. You can also use them on stretch marks when you first notice them appearing if you haven’t started already. The creams will have much better results the sooner you start using them.
How To Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy Naturally With Home Remedies
While most of the products we have reviewed use natural and organic ingredients, you may be keen to avoid ingredients you don’t know during pregnancy. If this is the case, there are more natural alternatives. Some food items can be used topically and can be very effective.
Coconut oil is a very effective moisturizer and can double up as a vegan, natural massage oil! Coconut oil is present in many creams and soaps, so it can be even better to use it neat. It absorbs deeply, quickly into your skin and eliminates dead cells. It contains, vitamin E and fatty acids which can contribute to your skin’s health.
Massage coconut oil into your skin after you have showered or bathed until it is fully absorbed, which shouldn’t take long. As it is natural and not medicated, you can do this as often as three times a day, for round-the-clock hydration. You can continue using it after you have had your baby too. Virgin coconut oil is the best choice, which you can buy from Amazon here.
Like coconut oil, olive oil contains vitamin E and antioxidants, as well as healing compounds which can assist the healing process. It can be used as both a preventative and remedy for stretch marks and can be used throughout pregnancy.
For the best results, choose extra virgin olive oil and after you have washed, massage it into the affected area and the leave it on so your skin absorbs the nutrients. It can also help soothe the itchiness of your skin which occurs due to the stretching as you grow.
Aloe vera is well-known for having soothing, healing properties as the gel from aloe vera plants contains enzymes, minerals vitamins and fatty acids. These help your skin’s healing process, restoring skin and preventing stretch marks. If you have an aloe plant, simply cut a leaf and squeeze out the gel from inside. Massage it into the affected or high-risk areas of your skin and then leave it on to absorb. You can do this twice a day. If you don’t have a plant already you can buy an aloe vera plant from Amazon here.
Best Cream To Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy
If you would like to find out more about the different products available for preventing and reducing stretch marks, why not read our comprehensive reviews of the top stretch mark creams on the market? It covers a range of budgets and includes a buyer’s guide to help you decide which product is right for you.
To view our reviews of the best products on the market click here.