Half of all women who have had a baby will experience stretch marks at their abdomen, thighs or underarms but can you prevent it, or ease the symptoms?

You may find that your skin looks better in pregnancy due to hormonal changes, mild fluid retention, and increased blood flow. These can all result in smoother skin and are responsible for the famous “pregnancy glow”. On the other hand, you may find that your skin gets drier and spottier and you may need to take extra care of it during pregnancy.

Skin also tends to darken during pregnancy, although the reason for this is unknown. One possible explanation is the increased levels of oestrogen and melanocyte-stimulating hormone, which stimulates skin pigmentation.

 During pregnancy many women develop stretch marks, which appear as fine, horizontal lines across areas of the body that are prone to rapid weight gain, such as around the stomach area, the back of the arms and thighs, and around the buttock area. Half of all women who have had a baby will experience stretch marks and sometimes they will go away by themselves, sometimes stretch marks never quite go away.

The colour of stretch marks ranges from pinkish to brownish to purplish. Over time they fade until they appear as lines a few shades lighter than your natural skin tone.

What causes stretch marks?

Stretch marks typically appear during the 6th and 7th months of pregnancy. The number one reason for stretch marks is that the skin is forced to stretch too much, too quickly. Like a piece of elastic, if you over stretch it, it won’t return to its original length because it will lose some of its elasticity, and you may even find that it becomes wrinkled along the edges. The same can happen with your skin.

What can you do about it?

There are many remedies available, all with differing rates of success. But before you decide what to do, bear in mind that no treatment will completely eliminate the marks. No matter what treatment you choose, the end objective is merely to reduce the appearance of stretch marks as much as possible.

A healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet and controlling your weight gain during the course of your pregnancy is the best way to prevent that from happening. This gives your body, especially your tummy, time to adapt to your growing baby.

A healthy diet during pregnancy is rich in nutrients and includes foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and cereals, and lean proteins. Essential fatty acids can help restore moisture and elasticity to the skin, so try to include foods such as avocados, olive oil and salmon. Citrus fruits, tomatoes and red peppers are all a great source of Vitamin C, which can help to produce collagen, a protein in the skin that improves strength and resilience. And silica, which is found in cucumbers, carrots and leafy greens can help the skin to repair and become more supple.

During your pregnancy if you are in the normal weight band you will gain about 25 to 35 pounds. If you are underweight a little more and if overweight you should gain a little less. If you can keep your weight gain within the recommended range then you have unlocked the secret of “how to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy”.

Water will help

Water is your best friend when you are looking to understand how to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy. You need to drink plenty of water – at least 8 glasses a day and more if the weather is hot or if you exercise. If you are not drinking enough water then your skin will become dry and it will not have the elasticity that it needs to handle the stretching during pregnancy. And of course it is also necessary to drink plenty of water to keep your growing baby healthy.

Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise

Keeping your skin well moisturised may help reduce stretch marks before they even form. Although moisturising ingredients only penetrate the upper-most layer of the skin, they help by ensuring your skin remains supple and more resistant.

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