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Stretch marks

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Stretch marks during pregnancy

If you’re a mum-to-be and you’re seeing stretch marks appearing on your body, you’re certainly not alone! About 90 percent of women get stretch marks during pregnancy. They’ll most commonly appear over your growing tummy, as well as your thighs, hips, breasts and upper arms.

Stretch marks tend to fade with time.

Stretch marks can appear on any mum-to-be and you’re lucky if you manage to get through your whole pregnancy and birth without a single one! But they do tend to fade with time, and below you’ll find some tips on how to help that fading process.

What are stretch marks in pregnancy?

Stretch marks are streaks or ‘tiger stripes’ that appear naturally during pregnancy as your skin stretches with a growing tummy and creates tears in its deeper layers. Depending on your skin tone they will be reddish, purple or brown in colour.

As you go through your pregnancy the marks will darken. However, a few months after you’ve had your baby, the stretch marks should become silvery white and more like your own skin colour. There’s nothing to worry about if they look quite prominent at first - it’s quite likely they will fade and diminish over time. Unfortunately for some women, stretch marks don’t totally disappear.

Why do mums-to-be get them?

The simple answer is, the body naturally changes and grows during pregnancy, so as the skin stretches to accommodate your changing shape, the marks are formed. Battle scars, if you will! You’re also more likely to get stretch marks if your mum or sister got stretch marks during their pregnancy. If you’re having twins or multiple babies, carrying a big baby or if you’re carrying a lot of amniotic fluid, you are also more likely to get stretch marks as your skin has to stretch and expand much more. The faster your skin has to expand, the more stretch marks you’re likely to get.

How to prevent stretch marks in pregnancy

If your body’s going to make way for that growing bub, it’s likely stretch marks will appear no matter what you do to try to prevent them. There are, however, some positive tweaks that can be made to your lifestyle to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks:

  • Avoid gaining weight too quickly. With a growing bub inside and those sneaky cravings, you’re naturally going to put on weight during pregnancy, and a moderate amount is healthy. However, if you gain too much weight, too quickly, the more likely you are to stretch the skin and cause stretch marks. Aim for slow and steady pregnancy weight gain. Talk to your healthcare professional if you have any concerns about appropriate weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals, seeds and nuts. Try these dietary tips for a healthy you and a healthy bub.
  • Keep your sodium intake relatively low. Consuming a lot of salt or other processed foods can cause you to retain fluid. Fluid retention can cause you to develop stretch marks as it can cause you to be heavier.
  • Drink plenty of water. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water per day, so that you stay well-hydrated.
  • Do regular gentle exercise. Try light stretching, pregnancy yoga and daily walks.

What products should I be using on my stretch marks?

Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence that proves rubbing creams and lotions into your skin will prevent stretch marks from appearing. This is because creams are applied to the external layer of the skin and don’t penetrate deep enough to reach the part of the skin that stretches to cause the marks.

But don’t think it’s a waste of your time, as gently massaging your bump may help you to bond with your little one. Many therapists recommend daily massages with any of the following moisturisers, both during and after pregnancy:

  • Wheat germ oil
  • Almond oil
  • Creams containing Vitamin E
  • Cocoa butter
  • Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • Jojoba, or rosehip seed oil
  • A combination of the above oils

You can try any of these tips, but most of all try to embrace your stretch marks as badges of honour. They are a beautiful reminder of the little bundle of joy you brought into this world.

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