As an expectant mother, there are a whole host of body changes you can expect to see as your pregnancy progresses. Some of these changes are obvious and expected, but others not so much. Not only does your bump get bigger, but your breasts may become larger and firmer, your ankles and fingers may swell or become larger, your hair and nails may grow faster and some Moms to be even experience changes in smell and taste! One pregnancy side effect that many of us know about and normally want to avoid however, are stretch marks.
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks (known in the medical profession as ‘striae gravidarum’) are one of the most common skin changes in pregnancy, and normally occur in the later trimesters, where the body is experiencing the more prominent physical changing in size and shape. Pregnancy not only puts physical strain on your skin, stretching and moving as your bump grows, but also pregnancy hormones can affect your skins natural elasticity levels, putting the skin under intense pressure and resulting in reddish-pink ‘stretch marks’ on the surface.
Whilst you may find stretch marks unsightly, it’s worth knowing that the huge majority of pregnancies (around 8 out of 10) result in some type of stretch mark on the body (most commonly on your bump itself, or on the breasts, hips or upper thigh area). Stretch marks are completely harmless and whilst they will never go away entirely, they generally do fade and become less noticeable as time passes, changing from a purply red shade to a lighter and almost silvery scar like appearance in time.
Can I prevent stretch marks from occurring?
This is a question asked by many expecting Moms, and unfortunately as a general rule, it’s fairly unlikely that you can completely prevent stretch marks from occurring. There are, however, a number of things that may help reduce the chances.
Control your weight – you are far more likely to experience stretch marks if you gain a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time (you can get stretch marks outside of pregnancy too!). For this reason, whilst it’s tempting to embrace the ‘eating for two’ mentality, you should instead try and eat a healthy balanced diet. It is not recommended to diet during pregnancy, so don’t obsess over your weight gain. Some weight gain during pregnancy is perfectly natural and expected.
Moisturise – There are many over the counter oils, creams and lotions that claim to prevent stretch marks or reduce their appearance, but the evidence on whether these actually work is somewhat limited. Many Moms to be tend to use creams such as Bio oil, cocoa butter or lanolin to try and keep their skin moisturised in the hope that this will help with elasticity and reduce the likelihood of their occurrence.
Exercise – Finally, exercise during pregnancy is another great option to improve your bodies blood flow and circulation, which in turn can help keep your weight at an appropriate level, improve elasticity and most importantly, look after your mental health and wellbeing too.
Don’t sweat it…
Ultimately, your body is going through a fairly significant change and in the grand scheme of things, a few stretch marks here and there aren’t going to be the end of the world. Remember that what your body is achieving in pregnancy is a miracle of science and those tiger stripes are a result of creating new life. If you do get them, be proud of your stretch marks, not embarrassed! They are part of your baby’s journey!