- Women's Health
Guide for Stretch Mark Prevention
Many women who have been through one or more pregnancies have more than their memories and photographs as permanent reminders - those unwelcome stretch marks. These marks often show as purple or red lines or dark horizontal threads along the skin of the abdomen.
These marks can become permanent blotches or scars. It has been estimated that between 70 % and 90 % of all pregnant women get some form of stretch marks on their bodies during the latter part of their pregnancies. The frequency is higher in white and fair skinned women (90 %) develop stretch marks during pregnancy.
Generally stretch marks appear as angry red lines on your bulging stomach usually during the 6th or 7 th month of pregnancy. Stretch marks also can show up on the buttocks, upper thighs, breasts and rarely on your arms and other places depending on where the weight gain occurs.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are caused by over-stretching the skin during late stages of pregnancy leading to small tears. Pregnancy stretch marks are actually small tears in the skin in the proteins collagen and elastin -the molecules that supports the skin tone and allow it to stretch. The skin is forced to expand rapidly beyond the limits of its elasticity. This causes tiny tears in the supporting layers of skin.
Pregnancy stretch marks most frequently occur on the breasts, abdomen, thighs or buttocks.
How to Avoid and Eliminate Stretch Marks?
The various things that determine whether or not a woman will get stretch marks during pregnancy include:
- Heredity: If your mother had stretch marks, it is likely that her children will also get them.
- Ethnic Background: Women from races with darker skin and more melanin in their skin are generally less prone to developing stretch marks.
- Water: Drinking plenty of water during pregnancy seems to help. making sure the skin is well hydrated reduces the risk for getting stretch marks.
- Scratching: Many women develop itchy skin as their stomach expands. Try not to scratch the skin, but instead rub a lotion or powder onto the skin to help alleviate the itchiness. Scratching appears to make it worse.
- Exercise: Developing a daily exerciser program helps to keep your skin supple and healthy. This often help to keep the skin toned and increases its elasticity.
- Keep your Skin Moist and Supple - Apply generous applications of rich moisturizing creams to your thighs, buttocks, abdomen and breasts (cocoa butter cream is a well known favorite among pregnant women. Keep your skin with moisture.
- Eat healthy and nutritious food and watch your diet so that you do not gain more weight than is absolutely necessary. Fast, uncontrolled and unnecessary increases in weight is often a primary cause of stretch marks. A steady and controlled weight gain, without any sudden increases, will let your skin stretch at a steady rate without any unexpected sudden rise that your skin may not be able to cope with. A balanced and varied diet will also help you ensure that you get adequate amounts of essential Vitamins such as B, A, E and C, all of which are essential to healthy skin and keeping it supple. Following a regular exercise routine can also help in maintaining your weight and preventing excessive weight gain.
- Use a cloth or a body brush to massage the areas where stretch marks are developing, or in areas you want to prevent stretch marks from appearing - this will increase circulation to the area, which may be helpful.
Stretch Mark Removal and Treatment
There are a number of specially developed specific stretch mark creams that can provide temporary treatment for stretch marks. Many of these creams contain wheat germ oil, cocoa butter, lanolin and similar natural oils. These creams help to heal the stretch marks in the skin by rebuilding its structure. The use of concealing or camouflaging cosmetics on the affected area can help to hide the stretch mark scars while they are being treated.
One of the modern permanent treatments for stretch marks is laser therapy. These simple treatments are quick and painless and often require very little recovery time. Laser treatments work because the laser repairs the natural synthesis of collagen in the skin. Collagen is an essential naturally occurring protein that rejuvenates and repairs skin tissue. Cosmetic laser treatments stimulate the natural replacement of collagen. The laser treatment also seals broken blood vessels, removes damaged skin tissue and repairs the fibres that occur in the middle skin layers. Laser treatments can be very helpful in removing the stretch marks. However these treatments can be very expensive.
Blue light therapy using a UV light is a less expensive option. This treatment uses a gel applied to the skin and the blue light to treat stretch marks. Plastic surgery is another option for the permanent removal of stretch marks.
A relatively new treatment is the use of specially developed chemical compounds that are known as retinoids - for example tretinoin, retinaldehyde or isotretinoin. When used under appropriate medical supervision, these treatments have been very successful in the treatment of stretch marks. It must made very clear that retinoic acid should never be applied to the skin at any time during pregnancy. Also there is no information to confirm that the use of retinoic acid is safe during breastfeeding. Another approach is to simply wait for the stretch marks to fade by themselves. In many women the stretch marks fade to small and thin silvery lines.
Prevention is the Key
For many women the best stretch mark prevention technique is follow a strict exercise routine. Try to aim for appropriate exercises for about 30 minutes about 3 to 5 days a week. Otherwise aim to exercise for about 10-15 minutes a day. Many exercises can be done while watching the news on television at night or with a group of friends. Joining a gym is a good idea as you will get the right exercises and commit yourself to a regular schedule.
Many women have been helped by using a proven anti-striae cream, also known as a stretch mark cream, being careful to use directed. You may find it helpful to use a special cream, or moisturizing lotions in conjunction with diet and exercise as part of a complete package. Do some research and find the right preventative creams that has been proven to prevent stretch marks.
Help yourself now, and start your prevention strategy before it is too late. Prevention is much better than treatment and so get started early and stick to your plan. Stop it from getting so bad that it begins to affect your self esteem and self confidence. Avoid costly laser treatments and cosmetic surgery.
© 2011 Dr. John Anderson