Worried about developing stretch marks during pregnancy, or wondering how to get rid of them?
You shouldn't be! Stretch marks are incredibly common and this phenomenon affects most women you know.
This post does not outline a surefire way to prevent stretch marks or how to make them disappear completely from your skin. However, it outlines various ways you could reduce the chances of developing them, and how to assist the healing process. From natural remedies such as Vitamin E or cocoa butter to laser treatments and medical surgeries, there are many options to explore if you are looking to get rid of stretch marks.
Most women grow to love their stretch marks as the scars of their pregnancy. They can act as a beautiful reminder of the time you have spent with your baby inside of you. Stretch marks are a visual celebration of new life that will stick with you forever, even as your baby grows!
If you enjoyed this article and want to find out about more issues surrounding pregnancy, consider taking a look at this post exploring whether you can eat [goats cheese when pregnant], or [how many baby bottles you will need].
What Causes Stretch Marks?
A stretch mark looks like a streak or line that develops on the surface of the skin. The appearance of stretch marks strongly varies depending on the person's skin tone, but they are usually pink, red, purple, or brown. If your stretch marks appear dark (typically purple) this usually means they are newer. Being darker does not mean these purple stretch marks will remain that way forever; the appearance of stretch marks changes with time and they tend to fade to a white or silver color even without treatment.
Stretch marks are completely benign and cause no harm apart from some potential itchiness of the skin as they develop. They are also a very common phenomenon, but some individuals with more elastic skin are less prone to developing them.
Stretch marks develop in different places on the body, which varies from woman to woman. They can appear on the belly, on the upper thighs, or around the breasts of pregnant women. Some people find that they might develop stretch marks on legs, arms, or on their back too, depending on where they might have lost or gained weight rapidly. Pregnant women are most likely to develop stretch marks as their baby bump starts to grow. Generally, the marks do not go away completely after the pregnancy, they only fade.
Stretch marks are caused by, as their name suggests, the skin stretching quickly. This occurs when a part of the body is growing, which is why pregnant women are prone to developing them. However, they can also be found when teenagers have a growth spurt or when an individual gains weight quickly.
Scientifically, stretch marks are developed when the middle layer of the skin, called the dermis, becomes stretched and breaks in certain places, causing blood vessels to show on the surface of the skin.
There are some factors that can increase your likelihood of developing stretch marks:
Rapid And Extreme Weight Gain: Women who put on more weight than average during pregnancy are more likely to get stretch marks, for example. As a reference, most women gain between 22 and 28 pounds, although this depends on your weight prior to the pregnancy. Note that developing stretch marks during pregnancy is normal whatever your size and dieting is not encouraged to avoid stretch marks as it can be dangerous for the mother and the baby. Being pregnant with twins or more than one baby can also increase your chance of developing stretch marks as your belly is heavier.
Cortisone: This hormone produced by adrenal glands makes your skin less elastic, meaning stretch marks are more likely to develop. Thus, women who use corticosteroids or have conditions requiring them to take cortisone are more likely to have stretch marks.
Hormone Levels: Scientific studies have also shown that hormone levels play a role in how prone your skin is to developing stretch marks and that younger women are more likely to develop them during their pregnancy.
Quickest Ways To Get Rid Of Stretch Marks After Pregnancy
It is worth noting that there is no scientific evidence that there exist remedies to completely prevent stretch marks or a magical stretch marks treatment; they are scars, so they will always appear on your skin once formed. There are, however, some things you can do to help reduce the appearance of pregnancy stretch marks on your skin and to help them fade postpartum if you wish.
One useful word of advice on getting rid of stretch marks is starting early. It is easier to 'treat' fresher stretch marks than older ones. As mentioned above, in the early stages of their development, your stretch marks might be a darker purple or brown color. They will fade naturally to a lighter shade (generally white or silver depending on your initial skin tone), but using some of the methods below could help you get rid of them more easily (although not completely).
Ideally, you would be maintaining a healthy skincare regime prior to, during, and post-pregnancy, as this helps your skin heal and your stretch marks fade. This means taking care of your skin by regularly moisturizing and exfoliating it using sensitive products which are appropriate for your skin type. Additionally, you should make sure you are keeping a good level of hydration at all times, which is especially important during pregnancy. Last but not least, a good skincare regime takes your diet into account: it should be healthy and balanced and contain plenty of ingredients containing Vitamin C and collagen.
There exist some prescription cream treatments containing hyaluronic acid or tretinoin for your skin, to be used strictly postpartum. Speak to a medical professional in order to use them as they should be prescribed.
Some women choose to undergo laser therapy to get rid of pregnancy stretch marks. However, as explained above, even this form of treatment won't remove them completely. Additionally, laser stretch mark removal is very expensive. Please seek medical advice from a qualified plastic surgeon before undergoing laser therapy.
Chemical peel treatments, a special form of exfoliation for your skin performed by a medical professional, can be sought out to help stretch marks fade. Please do not attempt to replicate this on your own and always speak to a qualified dermatologist.
Microdermabrasion treatment, usually used to treat acne, sun damage, or other skin conditions, can be performed for stretch mark removal. As with treatments above, this method is not totally effective and should be performed by a qualified dermatologist.
A form of acupuncture called micro-needling can also be used as a treatment to help your stretch marks fade. The practitioner uses tiny needles to puncture the skin, and the healing of these small wounds regenerates the skin. This treatment is similar to those used to treat wrinkles and other scars. Note that this should only be performed by a qualified professional and that it may take four to six sessions to observe results.
Drastically, there are some forms of surgery you can undergo to remove the scars caused by stretch marks. This is highly invasive, costly, and risky. Please refer to a qualified plastic surgeon before attempting anything of the kind.
How To Get Rid Of Stretch Marks After Pregnancy Naturally
On top of the medical procedures outlined above, there exist natural remedies and treatments such as cocoa butter and Vitamin E which can help get rid of your stretch marks. It is worth remembering here that a stretch mark is a scar and thus can only fade, as opposed to disappearing from your skin completely, and that this is okay. A stretch mark is a beautiful reminder of the time spent growing your baby in your body (how amazing?) and we love to see women celebrating their stretch marks!
Maintaining a diet of healthy, balanced food prior to pregnancy, during your pregnancy and postpartum is a good way to keep your skin healthy. Consume foods with plenty of Vitamin C (oranges, blackcurrants, peppers, and kiwis) as this helps collagen production in your body, which is good for your skin. Note that diets are severely discouraged during pregnancy (unless you have a medical condition that requires you to do so) as this can cause harm to you and your baby.
Exercising prior to pregnancy, during your pregnancy, and postpartum keeps you energized and keeps your weight gain steady, which helps prevent the development of stretch marks. Follow a healthy and balanced exercise regime, consisting of both aerobic exercise and strength training and always speak to a medical professional about the types of exercises that are safe during and after pregnancy.
Massages and other procedures which contribute to stimulating your blood flow and improving your circulation are encouraged, as this helps your skin to heal. This is a good way to reduce the development of stretch marks and to help them fade away.
These massages could be done using hydrating lotions such as cocoa butter, shea oil, or almond oil. These natural products are very moisturizing and help make your skin more supple. Similarly, Vitamin E oils or capsules improve the elasticity of your skin.
The healing process takes time. Do not expect to see your stretch marks fade immediately or get impatient when they do not, it is always a good time to embrace your stretch marks and learn to live with them!
Reasons To Love Your Stretch Marks
While it is easy to perceive them as an unwanted scar and a flaw, there are many reasons to love your stretch marks.
1. They are a very common thing. Depending on studies, it is estimated that 8/10, or up to 90% of pregnant women get stretch marks. Either way, most women you know who have had children will have a stretch mark. Try to treat them like the natural phenomenon that they are, not as a problem unique to you!
2. Stretch marks are not a harmful condition or something that should be treated at all costs! The worst they cause is some irritation or itchiness which can be remedied with moisturizing.
3. Your stretch marks can act as a reminder of your pregnancy(ies) and the time your children spent growing inside the womb. This is a magical time for many women and treating your marks as memorabilia can be a healthy way of embracing them.
4. Alternatively, they can also be a testament to the huge life change that having children represents. Giving birth and carrying a baby are enormous tasks, and your stretch marks are your badge of honor for these feats!
5. Stretch marks are beautiful! Artist Cinta Tort Cartró has produced a series of photographs highlighting women's stretch marks on thighs, arms, tummies and more using glitter, turning them into literal works of art.
If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at [how to grow a baby] or [how to improve egg quality] too?
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