Stretch marks, called striae distensae, are seen often, and in varying degrees during pregnancy. They are caused when the elastic fibres and collagen in deeper layers of your skin are pulled apart to make room for your growing baby. When the skin tears, collagen breaks down and shows through the top layer of your skin as a pink, red or purple indented streak.
Nearly 9 out of 10 pregnant women develop stretch marks on their breasts, tummy, hips buttocks and/or arms. Stretch marks may appear early or later in your pregnancy. After pregnancy, they may fade to the same colour as the rest of your skin, but they won’t go away.
You can help minimize the number of and/or severity of stretch marks by gaining weight slowly and steadily during pregnancy. Any large increases in weight can cause stretch marks to appear more readily.
How to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy
Although the formation of stretch marks may occur during pregnancy, there are some things you can do that may help reduce their severity.
- Drink lots of water, and eat healthy foods. Foods high in antioxidants provide nutrients essential for tissue repair and healing.
- Maintain your skin’s elasticity by eating adequate amounts of protein and smaller amounts of fat, such as flaxseed, flaxseed oil and fish oils.
- Stay out of the sun!
- Keep up with your exercise program
- Ask your doctor about using creams with alpha-hydroxy acid, citric acid or lactic acid. Some of these creams and lotions improve the quality of the skin’s elastic fibres.
Treatment of stretch marks after pregnancy
Many women want to know what they can do for the stretch marks that develop during pregnancy. After pregnancy, you have quite a few options for treatment.
- The use of Retin-A or Renova, in combination with glycolic acid, has been shown to be fairly effective. Prescriptions are needed for Retin-A and Renova; you can get glycolic acid from your dermatologist. Cellex-C, with glycolic acid, also improves the appearance of stretch marks.
- The most effective treatment is laser treatment, but it can be very costly.
- Massage has proved effective – it increases blood flow to the area to stimulate the healing process and gets rid of dead surface cells.
- Various creams may also help, such as Bio oil, Trilastin, Coco Butter and Emu Oil.