Pregnancy Stretch Marks: What You Need to Know
While stretch marks can appear due to rapid weight loss or gain, they more often appear when a woman becomes pregnant. These depressed small indentations or streaks appear most frequently over the stomach in the last stages of pregnancy. At that time the abdomen is expanding rapidly to accommodate the growth of the baby. Some women may also get stretch marks on their hips, breasts, thighs or buttocks.
Stretch marks make an appearance when the elastin and collagen in the skin lose their suppleness. Therefore, the elastic supportive tissue of the dermis loses its capacity to expand and therefore tears instead stretches. As a result, marks, called striae appear that, at first, are colored reddish brown, pink, dark brown or purple, depending on the skin color. While the marks will fade, they never totally disappear.
Since you know this information, you probably want to know how likely you will get the marks. Research shows that over half of pregnant women get stretch marks so their appearance is a common occurrence. Studies have shown that genetics influence the formation of the marks. For example, if your sister or mother got stretch marks when they were pregnant, chances are you will get them too. Plus, the faster your skin expands during pregnancy, the more likely that the marks will appear.
Therefore, the possibility is strong that you will get stretch marks if –
- You gain a lot of weight at a rapid pace
- You are carrying multiples
- You are carrying a large baby
- You have an excess of amniotic fluid
Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot you can do to prevent the formation of stretch marks, especially if your DNA suggests that they will appear. However, if you gain no more than the suggested amount of weight during your pregnancy (about 30 pounds) and gain it gradually, you will reduce the chances that striae will appear. While lotions and creams can smooth the skin and lessen itching, it does not mean that the marks will not show up.
Happily, stretch marks usually become less noticeable about six months after delivery. The pigmentation usually fades and lightens; however, the texture remains about the same. Later, you may want to consult with a dermatologist about the treatment options for lessening the look of the faded striae. It is usually best to wait to treat the marks as topicals, such as tretinoin, better known as Retin-A, and glycolic acid are better used after pregnancy and breastfeeding. Retin-A is not safe for women to use when women are pregnant. It is also advised to avoid using the medication while a woman is breastfeeding.
There is some supportive evidence that shows that laser treatments can assist in restoring the skin’s elasticity and change the pigmentation of the stretch marks so they appear much less noticeable. Also, be aware that stretch marks are considered a cosmetic complaint. Therefore, insurance usually will not cover the cost for related procedures, mediations or consultations.
In some cases, a stretch mark is considered a badge one receives for delivering a baby. The tiny tears that are made in the supporting layers of the tissue beneath the skin are worn by most women until they fade to a silvery gray. At that time, most women try to find a way to smooth them away or reduce their presence.
The best way to lessen the look of striae or prevent the marks is to nourish the skin from within. That means eating plenty of foods that contain vitamin C, all which helps to keep the skin toned and less subjected to marks.
Also, keenly watch your weight. Keep your eyes on the weight scale during your pregnancy to make sure the weight that you gain is slow and steady. Women should also keep in mind that eating for two does not mean consuming twice as much. Therefore, try to follow the guidelines for caloric intake during your pregnancy.
Also, be aware that a dermatologist should not be consulted, as previously stated, until you have given birth and breastfed your child. When it comes to reducing the looks of stretch marks, patience is a virtue. Better to be safe than sorry. Don’t consider treatment plans until about a year after delivery.
When you do consider treatment, try to opt for skin treatments that are non-invasive. Today, laser technology can assist in building up the collagen that is lost during pregnancy. When a woman is pregnant, a hormone is produced that reduces the collagen and elastin production in the skin. When this elasticity is reduced, ruptures occur under the skin – all which leads to the formation of the marks.
Laser technology remodels the collagen in the skin and lessens the looks of lines, scarring, striae and wrinkles. The technology then is helpful for anyone who wishes to smooth the skin and reduce the marks without downtime or discomfort. Appointments using the technology can be made during a lunch hour and last, on average, about 30 minutes per session.
Marks can almost be erased using chemical peels or microdermabrasion to slough off the old skin and feed the area with new skin cells. Regardless of the kind of treatment you use, the marks will not completely be erased. However, their presence will also be not as prevailing. As long as you know what causes the striae and how to reduce the formation and look, it will be easier to shortlist your treatment options and follow a specific plan.