Congratulations on your pregnancy!
During this time, you may be self-conscious about the way you look, as your body, diet and daily routine are all adapting to make way for your baby.
One dreaded lasting impression of pregnancy is stretch marks. Unfortunately, between 75 and 90 percent of women develop stretch marks during pregnancy.
Stretch marks typically appear as bands of parallel lines on your skin, which are a distinctly different color and texture than your normal skin. The color may range from purple to bright pink to light gray. Sometimes, stretch marks may also feel itchy.
Stretch marks are common during or after pregnancy, due to the drastic weight change and the skin around the abdomen stretching out to accommodate a growing belly. A contributing factor is the hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy.
The unsightly marks typically appear on your stomach as well as breasts, thighs and buttocks, especially during the second and third trimesters.
While the end result of having a baby is undoubtedly worth it, you can prevent or reduce the appearance of stretch marks during pregnancy if you act early.
All you need to do is make sure that your skin maintains its maximum elasticity throughout your pregnancy, so it can handle the stress caused by stretching. This can be achieved by following a few key tips.
Here are some key tips to prevent pregnancy stretch marks.
1. Moisturize Your Skin
You must also use a moisturizer to hydrate the skin on your abdominal area, as well as any other areas where you notice stretch marks developing.
Coconut oil, cocoa butter, almond oil, shea butter and wheat germ oil are popular and effective choices to keep your skin moisturized during pregnancy. These oils are rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and support the regeneration of new tissues and healthy skin cells.
It is recommended to moisturize your skin in the morning after bathing and again at night. If your skin itches, moisturize that area more often.
- Rub the oil of your choice on the affected area, then massage gently using circular motions so the oil penetrates deep into the skin.
- Another option is to apply fresh aloe vera gel on the areas prone to stretch marks.
2. Watch Your Weight
Another way you can prevent stretch marks is by maintaining a healthy weight, despite the added pounds from the baby. During pregnancy, you’ll obviously gain weight over a relatively brief period of time. It is normal to gain about 22 to 28 pounds during pregnancy.
But you must avoid rapid and unhealthy weight gain, which can cause your skin to stretch more and make any stretch marks more prominent.
You should be eating more calories than you did before you were pregnant, but not twice as many. Also, the calories should come from nutritious foods, not fatty ones, to help ensure gradual weight gain.
Follow a healthy diet and exercise regimen as directed by your doctor to help manage your weight.
Exercising regularly during pregnancy is important. It helps the skin retain its elasticity by improving your blood circulation. Exercise and stretching also induce sweating, thus removing toxins from the body.
Plus, exercise will help prevent you from gaining weight too quickly, which can make stretch marks worse.
Consult your doctor about incorporating light exercises, yoga, or a workout designed for pregnant women into your routine. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or complications, it’s critical that you talk to your doctor first about what type of exercise would be appropriate for your condition.
After the baby is born, you can use strength training and cardio workouts to help your skin tighten up and reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
4. Stay Hydrated
Whether or not you are pregnant, drinking an ample amount of water throughout the day is important for healthy skin. Water helps detoxify your body and keeps your skin plump. This contributes to maintaining skin elasticity.
According to the Institute of Medicine, the current recommendation for a woman’s daily fluid intake is 72 ounces. So, drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day. You don’t need to drink a huge amount at one time. Instead, keep sipping a little water throughout the day.
At the same time, eat fruits and vegetables with high water content to help hydrate your body. For example, eat a salad with cucumbers, bell peppers and celery. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also healthy for your baby.
5. Avoid Caffeine
During pregnancy, your body has an increased demand for hydration, as your blood volume is increasing and your body is building a huge water sack around your unborn baby. Caffeine has a dehydrating effect on the body, so avoid foods and beverages containing caffeine like coffee, tea and soda.
If your body is not properly hydrated, your skin loses some of its elasticity and becomes more prone to tears associated with stretch marks. Also, it can cause an increase in free radicals in the body.
Reducing caffeine intake during pregnancy is also good for your baby’s health.
No matter how much you crave coffee, tea and soda, try to avoid them. Instead, you can drink herbal tea, fruit juices and other caffeine-free fluids.
6. Eat a Skin-Nourishing Diet
The food you eat plays an important role in maintaining skin elasticity. Health experts recommend following a diet that nourishes your skin from within.
At the same time, don’t go on a crash diet to lose weight after you’ve given birth. Lose it gradually, just as you gained weight gradually, to help your skin tighten and return to normal.
- Eat foods rich in antioxidants like spinach, blueberries, strawberries and other vegetables, which help nourish and protect the skin.
- Foods containing vitamin E, which protects skin cell membranes, are also important. Vitamin E-rich foods include nuts, seeds, avocados, broccoli and collard greens.
- Foods containing vitamin A help repair skin tissues. Vitamin A-rich foods include carrots, sweet potatoes, mangos, squash and red bell peppers.
- Foods rich in omega-3s like fish, fish oil, walnuts, eggs and oysters are also good for your skin. When eating fish make sure it is low in mercury, such as salmon, tuna, shrimp, and cod. Avoid eating undercooked fish or eggs.
7. Use Dry Brushing
Exfoliating your skin using a dry brush technique is another good way to control stretch marks during pregnancy. Dry brushing improves your circulation and keeps your skin healthy.
It also helps the skin better absorb moisturizing oils, creams and lotions.
- Before bathing or showering, brush your bare skin with long, sweeping strokes toward the heart.
- Do this for about 5 minutes, especially on your thighs, arms, abdomen and buttocks.
- Do it daily or every other day.
Always use a brush made from natural fibers for dry brushing.
- In some cases, stretch marks are genetic. But with proper care, you can still reduce their appearance.
- Always use oil on your skin that improves skin elasticity to prevent stretch marks.
- Don’t use harsh chemicals on your skin. Use skin products made with natural oils that will hydrate your skin.
- Apply a stretch mark salve containing glycolic acid on your abdomen, sides and wherever you notice stretch marks. Follow the directions on the package for appropriate use.
- Use a topical product specifically formulated to maximize the skin’s elasticity. Ask your doctor to recommend some products.
- Always be sure that any stretch mark products you use while pregnant or nursing are safe for use. Ask your doctor whenever in doubt.