Preventing Pregnancy Stretch Marks

Written by on February 4, 2013 in Health - No comments | Print this page

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pregnancy-stretch-marksPreventing stretch marks begins with understanding what stretch marks are, and with understanding how and why they occur.

While preventing pregnancy stretch marks can be difficult, it is not impossible, particularly if you take steps to avoid them from the very beginning of your pregnancy.

Understanding Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are actually scarring of the dermis. They are caused by rapid skin stretching, and they can also be caused by hormonal changes associated with pregnancy. Stretch marks often appear as purple or reddish lines at first, and that can be frightening. Luckily, they tend to fade to a lighter color as time passes.

Stretch marks can occur anywhere on the body’s surface, but they’re most likely to show up in places where fat tends to be stored, including in the abdomen, the breasts, the upper arms and underarms, the thighs, back, buttocks, and hips.

In various studies, between 75% and 90% of pregnant women have been shown to develop stretch marks at some time during pregnancy. The marks normally appear during the sixth or seventh month, though they can occur much sooner if rapid weight gain occurs.

Preventing Stretch Marks

There are a number of ways to reduce the risk that you’ll get stretch marks when pregnant. The first thing to understand is that these marks happen due to rapid and hormonal changes during pregnancy, and they happen more often to skin that is unsupported, or skin that is weakened due to internal changes in its structure.

Begin by ensuring you are eating a healthy diet that nourishes your body and your growing baby while eliminating the risk that you’ll end up bloated or gaining excess body fat during your pregnancy. Skip foods that contain extra salt, and focus on eating vegetables, fruits, and healthy proteins.

While you’re eating for two, you should remember that your growing baby doesn’t require a lot of extra calories. At the end of your pregnancy, you’ll need to be eating about 300 calories extra per day, depending on your overall health.

Ask your doctor to help you develop a healthy eating plan, and follow that plan not just to prevent stretch marks, but to ensure your pregnancy goes smoothly and you deliver a healthy baby. Be sure to drink plenty of water and other healthy fluids while you’re at it. This will help you keep your skin hydrated so that it maintains elasticity.

Next, work on developing good exercise habits. Taking a walk each day, swimming, and stretching can help you keep muscles in good shape, and as muscles help to support skin, keeping them toned can help to prevent the skin from developing internal structural damage that can increase the likelihood that you’ll get stretch marks.

In addition, exercise can help stave off excess weight gain. Most women should gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy, or more if you’re expecting twins or if you are a bit underweight. If you start your pregnancy overweight, try to gain a little less, and talk to your doctor about what is healthy for you.

Third, focus on developing a good pregnancy skin care routine that takes your entire skin into consideration. There are great products available such as the spoiled mama tummy butter that many expectant moms rave about.

After all, skin is your body’s largest organ, and you want to take good care of it, both during and after your pregnancy. Start moisturizing the skin on your abdomen, breasts, and other areas each morning and evening.

Creams and lotions containing ingredients like shea butter, cocoa butter, lanolin, almond oil, or wheat germ oil can help keep skin supple, and exfoliating can help ensure skin cells turn over well.

Finally, watch for feelings of itchiness in areas where the skin is prone to stretch marks, as these sensations can tell you in advance that skin is being damaged. Add extra moisturizer to those areas to help prevent or minimize stretch marks.

Melissa Tobin writes about pregnancy related topics and issues.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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