Most pregnant women fear them, but the truth is stretch marks definitely aren’t the end of the world. (A sweet baby is totally worth whatever battle scars may be left behind). As moms, our first concern is obviously to bring a healthy, happy baby into the world. But if you’re looking for a few ways to prevent stretch marks or the “badge of motherhood”during pregnancy, it never hurts to use a few tried and true tricks.
First, let’s talk about what stretch marks are.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology… About 90% of women will get stretch marks sometime after their sixth or seventh month of pregnancy.
When it comes to getting stretch marks during pregnancy, there are many factors to consider. Much of this has to do with how much weight you gain, how much your stomach and skin stretches, and what your genetic make up looks like when it comes to skin elasticity and collagen.
Here are 4 things you may not know about stretch marks:
- Stretch marks are actually tiny tears in the supporting layers of tissue under your skin as it’s pulled tight to the limit during pregnancy.
- Susceptibility has lots to do with genetics: Chances are, if your mother got them, there’s an increased chance that you’ll also develop stretch marks.
- Studies show that rapid pregnancy weight gain can also make you more likely to get stretch marks.
- Darker-skinned moms are less likely to get stretch marks than fair-skinned women during pregnancy (plus they’re not as visible on dark skin).
Try as you might to avoid stretch marks, there’s no official proven way to treat them or to stop them from zigzagging their way across your body. But the good news is, that while not completely avoidable, there are a few tried and true tricks to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.
7 Tips to Reduce Stretch Marks During Pregnancy:
1. Eat Right.
I make it a point to nourish my skin from the inside, as well. You’re probably already eating healthy, balanced meals to make sure your baby is getting enough vitamins and nutrients. Incorporating foods that are especially beneficial for the health of your skin can improve your skin’s elasticity, which helps prevent stretch marks from forming. Add the following foods to your daily diet:
- Foods rich in antioxidants, which help nourish and protect skin. Eat plenty of spinach, blueberries, strawberries, and other fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Foods containing vitamin E, which protects skin cell membranes. Eat nuts, seeds, avocados broccoli, and collard greens.
- Foods containing vitamin A, which repairs skin tissues. Eat carrots, sweet potatoes, mango, squash, and red bell peppers.
- Foods containing omega 3s, which keep cell membranes healthy and make your skin glow. Eat fish, fish oil, walnuts, eggs and oysters.
Exercising helps the skin retain its elasticity by improving your body’s circulation. As an added benefit, exercise will help prevent you from gaining too much weight, too quickly, nipping stretch marks in the bud. Incorporate exercise into your daily schedule–even if it’s just a walk. I always focus on exercises that are meant to make pregnancy easier on my body. Stretches, strengthening exercises, and other simple movements can help keep your blood moving and keep you more comfortable during pregnancy.
3. Watch Your Weight.
Keep an eye on that scale during pregnancy and put your pounds on slow and steady instead of in big spurts. Keep in mind that eating for two doesn’t mean literally eating twice as much–so as much as possible, try to keep weight gain to a healthy level.
4. Stay Hydrated.
We have all heard that drinking water is great for the body, and this rule applies doubly–so when you are pregnant. Water helps detoxify the body and helps your skin cope with the stress of stretching. Ideally, you should drink at least ½ a gallon, and preferable 1 gallon, of water in a day. Including foods with high water content into your diet is also a great way to stay hydrated and keep your skin stretch mark free. Include foods like watermelons, strawberries, cucumbers etc. into your diet to help your skin stretch easily, keeping stretch marks at bay.
5. Avoid Harsh Chemicals.
Many commercial body washes contain sulfates, which can dry out your skin and reduce its elasticity over time. Choose a cleanser made with natural oils that will hydrate your skin, rather than making it lose too much moisture. Coconut oil can act as a healthy skin cleanser, and that’s typically what I use. Rub it over your skin, rinse with warm water, and pat your skin dry with a soft towel.
6. Improve Skin Elasticity with Supplements.
When skin loses elasticity, it can no longer return to its proper size. Skin elasticity naturally decreases as we age, but this is an issue that women of all ages face. In terms of improving elasticity, research shows that this is mostly an inside job. If you can’t get all the vitamins and minerals you need from whole foods, the supplements we take, can help….
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is essential for producing collagen and elastin. Aging and exposure to sunlight or pollutants deplete the amount of vitamin C in skin, while consuming vitamin C boosts its levels. Studies show that women should get 75 milligrams daily. You can get about 100 percent of your daily intake by eating 1/2 cup of sweet peppers or a medium orange. Other good sources include broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, strawberries and cantaloupe.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E works inside your skin as an antioxidant. Reactive molecules known as free radicals are produced when skin is exposed to sunlight or other environmental stressors. Vitamin E neutralizes free radicals before they harm skin cells in the skin’s barrier. Since sunlight and free radicals also damage collagen and elastin, antioxidant protection helps maintain skin’s strength. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin E is 15 milligrams daily. The best dietary sources are sunflower seeds, wheat germ, peanuts, almonds, and hazelnuts.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps regulate the growth of new skin cells. Since new cells form the skin’s protective barrier, they hold in moisture and maintain flexible skin. You also need vitamin B-12, folate and vitamin B-6 for their ability to lower blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine may block enzymes essential for the normal meshing of collagen and elastin, according to the Medical Biochemistry Researches. Other B vitamins, including biotin and niacin, also contribute to healthy skin. Since these vitamins come from diverse food sources, the best strategy is to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of low sugar fruits, fibrous vegetables, lean protein.
7. Massage with the Right Lotion.
Save your money on expensive creams . . . No stretch mark cream is the miracle cure it’s sold as. But there are benefits to moisturizing daily will help with the baby belly dryness and itchy skin associated with pregnancy! During pregnancy the areas that are most prone to stretch marks are your tummy, sides, lower back, thighs and legs since these areas undergo the most strain as your baby grows. Therefore, in order to help the skin in these area stretch without forming marks the skin needs to be well moisturized. But your ordinary moisturizer might not be able to do the trick, since they will not be able to penetrate deep enough into the skin. During your pregnancy gently massage the areas most prone to stretch marks with the right type of lotion twice a day. While many products on the market are scams, studies show that there may be benefit to using a lotion on your skin that contains collagen, as well as vitamins E, A, C, and K to help firm up loose skin….
Ideas include something like this firming butter that has Cocoa Butter, Collagen, Elastin and Shea Butter to support skin elasticity and texture. The firming butter has the addition of Ginseng and Vitamin E help soften and rejuvenate skin. You could also look for a lotion like this that has a soothing blend of vitamin K, aloe vera, cocoa butter and essential oils. No matter what you decide to use, when you apply the lotion be sure to massage it in.