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Stretch marks tend to get mixed reviews from women; some view them as a complete eye sore that they want to get rid of, while others view them as a badge of honor that indicates their passage into the world of motherhood. You may be just starting your pregnancy journey and looking for ways to minimize any possible stretch marks, or you may already have your bundle of joy (congratulations!) and are looking to diminish the marks left on your body from the pregnancy. While there are no surefire ways to get rid of them completely, there are a few treatments that you can try to help diminish stretch marks.
What are stretch marks anyway?
Stretch marks are long, narrow streaks or stripes that happen when the body’s skin is stretched beyond its capability, causing tears in the collagen and elastin fibres in the skin. They often occur during rapid growth spurts, such as weight gain, weight loss, pregnancy, or puberty, when the body is growing faster than the skin can keep up. The most likely places you will see stretch marks during pregnancy are the abdomen, buttocks, breasts, hips, and thighs.
Stretch marks tend to appear more on fair-skinned women, and can be hereditary, so if your mother had stretch marks, you likely will have some as well. Some women’s scars heal over time, fading to barely-visible white lines across the body, while others maintain the dark red or purple colouring and do not fade. Typically, the red or purple marks are those that are fresh tears in the skin that are trying to heal, and they will fade somewhat over time. It’s just that the amount that they will fade often depends on your genetic make-up, which unfortunately leaves it largely out of your hands. However, there are a few ways to help combat stretch marks.
Prevention is key!
One of the best ways to combat stretch marks is to be preventative throughout your pregnancy. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are just beginning your pregnancy, as these tips will help to minimize the appearance of stretch marks (although they may not avoid them completely).
Moisturize your skin regularly
Incorporating a prenatal massage into your pregnancy routine, using a natural, healthy oil, can help to allow your skin to stretch during the pregnancy without causing as many stretch marks. Oils that would be best to use include coconut oil, olive oil, or any other natural oil that is high in vitamin E, as vitamin E helps to provide a good dose of moisture for your skin, which will in turn improve your skin’s elasticity.
While going for an hour-long prenatal massage probably sounds blissful in the midst of a pregnancy, when doing it to prevent stretch marks, it doesn’t have to take up quite as much time! Simply rub your chosen oil onto the body parts that are growing the most – likely your hips, belly, and breasts, for a few minutes once or twice a day. If you are using coconut or olive oil, let the oils sit on your skin for several minutes (20 minutes is ideal if you have the time) to absorb fully into the skin. Adding this into your daily routine, perhaps when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed, can help wonders in preventing stretch marks.
Watch the weight gain
It is important to monitor your weight gain throughout your pregnancy for a variety of health reasons, and one of those reasons is that it can help to prevent stretch marks. While we need to be consuming enough food and calories for our little one to thrive and grow, we don’t want to be consuming an overabundance of food and gaining tons of weight with no restrictions, as that can lead to unhealthy weight gain which isn’t good for you or the baby. Also, by being mindful of how much weight we are gaining, we are slowing the process of our bodies expanding and growing, which in turn will help to give our skin time to adapt to the changes and not tear quite so easily.
Eat nutritious food
This isn’t going to prevent stretch marks entirely, but a well-nourished body can heal a lot better than one that is full of empty, sugary calories. Eating a wide range of healthy, nutritious foods packed full of replenishing vitamins and minerals can help to provide your skin with the nourishment it needs to stretch and grow without tearing quite as much. Fill your plate with lots of green, leafy vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and lean proteins.
Moisturizers are your friend
Even if you weren’t able to prevent the stretch marks from coming during pregnancy, you can still do things to diminish their colour and appearance over time. Moisturizing your body post-pregnancy can help to relax the skin and help it to heal after the amazing feat it has accomplished. Body butters are great for giving your skin a huge dose of moisture, which in turn improves elasticity and helps your skin to repair itself over time. Products that use natural ingredients are great to use, and butters like cocoa butter or shea butter are wonderful for your skin (and smell delicious!).
There are a wide variety of products on the market that help to repair your skin after pregnancy. A few of the best ones that we have found here at Smart Parent Advice include Mederma’s Quick Dry Oil, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Skin Therapy Oil, and Bio-Oil Skincare Oil. All of these products use safe, high-quality ingredients that will help to nourish your skin and repair some of the stretch marks caused from your body expanding to accommodate your bundle of joy.
Creams that contain retinol cannot be used during pregnancy because there is a risk of birth defects. However, once your beautiful babe is born, using creams that contain retinol can help to treat your stretch marks, as this ingredient helps to stimulate collagen production, which in turn will help to repair the skin. It can take several weeks to see any repair in the stretch marks once you start using retinol creams, however be patient, they can help! If needed, you can also speak to a dermatologist about getting a prescription for creams that contain a higher dose of retinol than the over-the-counter brands.
If you have tried the various creams and preventative strategies but you’re still plagued with dark, stubborn stretch marks, then there is the option of laser treatments. Of course, the more effective a treatment option is, the more expensive it will be, and laser treatments are no different. This wouldn’t really be a viable option until you are finished having children, as you wouldn’t necessarily want to pay for this treatment more than once! The cost of laser treatments can vary, but the approximate range is $300 – $800, and you would likely need to do three or more treatments to get rid of the stretch marks completely. These treatments are considered elective, so they are not covered by insurance companies either.
Microneedling is another option that does not necessarily cost quite as much as laser treatment, and there are even tools you can purchase to do this at home, such as Sdara’s Derma Roller. These tools help to open the collagen fibres in your skin by gently breaking up the scar tissue on the surface. This break up of tissues sends a signal for your body to initiate healing by producing stronger, healthier fibres that will then help to diminish the scars. Simply roll the tool along the skin where you have stretch marks once or twice a day. Massaging in a good quality cream afterward will also help to replenish the skin and help it to repair itself. This process takes time, and results will not be visible right away, however over time you will likely see the stretch marks fade.
Whatever route you decide to go to combat your stretch marks, your body will do what it can to repair the strain from pregnancy. Some marks may fade completely over time, while others will stubbornly persist. You may decide to pursue stronger avenues of repair, such as laser treatment. It all depends on how you feel about these stretch marks and how much they bother you. Some women choose to wear their “tiger stripes” as badges of honor for the amazing journey their bodies have been through. Others prefer to not have their scars quite so visible, so they work to try to soften some of their stretch marks. Regardless, your body has been through a tremendous amount – it has grown a tiny human! That is an amazing feat in itself, and certainly one to be proud of. It is our hope here at Smart Parent Advice that whatever avenue you choose to address your stretch marks, that you recognize the amazing accomplishment you have achieved and enjoy this magical time with your new babe. Congratulations!