Pregnancy stretch marks are long, narrow stripes or lines that appear on the skin of many women.
The appearance of pregnancy stretch marks is common during or after pregnancy or after a sudden change in weight. In fact, they are prevalent in 70 to 90 percent of pregnant women.
This article will highlight all you need to know about stretch marks during pregnancy, the cause, along with six things you can do to prevent them.
What Are the Causes?
Pregnancy stretch marks are also known as Striae gravidarum and are mostly caused as a result of the continuous expansion and contraction of the skin covering the abdomen. The appearance of such stretch marks is also the result of the skin being suddenly and quickly stretched.
Before stretch marks become visible, the affected area may become irritated or itchy, and the skin appears thin or pink. When the scars form, they often appear to be reddish or pinkish depending on the skin of the individual. The color eventually fades to a silvery hue over time.
Another cause of stretch marks has to do with the levels of cortisone in the bloodstream. Cortisone is a type of hormone produced by the adrenal glands, but over secretion of this hormone makes the skin lose its elasticity.
Where Do They Appear?
Stretch marks tend to frequently appear in the abdomen area in the later stages of pregnancy when the belly stretches to accommodate the baby. They also develop on other parts of the body such as thighs, hips, breasts, buttocks and upper arms.
The skin has insufficient time to adjust as the pregnancy develops which results in a tear thereby forming a scar.
Six Things To Prevent Pregnancy Stretch Marks
Physically, pregnancy stretch marks are harmless to the woman or the baby but it can have some psychological effects on the woman creating problems with self-confidence and anxiety.
However, there are several methods you can use to limit the appearance of stretch marks. Due to the changes that occur in the body of a pregnant woman, some methods are easier to use than others.
The methods are as follows:
1. Maintaining a Healthy Diet
During pregnancy, the intake of a well-balanced diet with all the necessary vitamins and minerals cannot be over-emphasized. Certain types of food are good for the skin, thereby maintaining the elasticity of the skin and preventing stretch marks during pregnancy.
For example, include foods rich in antioxidants in your diet – such as broccoli, artichoke, and sweet potato. They increase blood flow to the skin surface and allow for even distribution of fats in the skin tissue.
Also, fruits and vegetables should be regularly taken as these contain essential vitamins such as Vitamins A, B, C, and E. Other necessary foods include soybeans, walnut, dairy products, berries, etc.
2. Controlling Weight Gain
Inevitably, there will be a certain degree of weight gain during pregnancy. But the weight gain must be considerably measured. Pregnant women are advised to eat between 1,900 – 2,200 calories per day.
Eating healthily and managing the weight gain will prevent unnecessary stretching of the skin thereby limiting the occurrence of stretch marks during pregnancy.
3. Staying Hydrated
Drinking enough water is important and can prevent pregnancy stretch marks from appearing on the skin. Water helps to keep the skin elastic and soft. At least, 12 cups of water are recommended for pregnant women so as to keep up with the increased metabolism of their bodies.
Exercise improves blood circulation in the body, which helps the skin retain its suppleness and gives it the opportunity to stretch naturally as it expands.
Exercise also promotes the release of natural antioxidants within the body and also stimulates the production of new collagen, which reduces the chances of pregnancy stretch marks.
5. Exposure to Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps to regulate the growth of new skin cells which can effectively retain the flexibility of the skin. Absorbing a regular and necessary dose of direct sunlight is a good way of getting Vitamin D into the body. This, in turn, regenerates the dead cells on the skin thereby maintaining its freshness.
6. Living a Good Lifestyle
Pregnancy stretch marks are highly prevalent in women that have an unhealthy lifestyle. Habits such as the heavy intake of alcoholic drinks, chain-smoking, irregular sleep patterns, and stress put the skin under considerable strain as it loses its elasticity and softness.
For example, smoking disrupts the skin’s biological process of breaking down the old skin and replacing it with a fresh one. An unhealthy lifestyle also leads to the build-up of toxins in the skin tissue. As a result, this can lead to stretch marks in pregnant women.
Stretch marks occur in the majority of pregnant women and remain harmless to them and their babies. However, with time, they often fade and become less noticeable.
Furthermore, it is difficult to prevent certain body changes, but with several methods as stated above, pregnancy stretch marks can be reduced.
Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, drinking lots of water and regular exercise are some of the major ways of reducing the occurrence of stretch marks during pregnancy.