As a woman you’ve likely come across stretch marks throughout your life, often developing on the body during puberty around the hips, thighs and breasts.
They can also occur if you put on a large amount of weight – and this is why they are very common during pregnancy.
Mostly occurring on the stomach, they are lines that appear on the skin and can appear purple or red, before eventually fading to white.
What are stretch marks and why do we get them?
Stretch marks are an external sign of the incredible changes your body is going through internally to accommodate your growing baby, and around 90 per cent of women will experience them in some form.
Stretch marks (Striae gravidarum) are minute tears that occur when the tissue underneath the top layers of skin (dermis) expands at a faster rate than the skin above it (epidermis). The colour, length, width and depth of the marks will vary from person to person.
Can I avoid stretch marks?
Unfortunately, all signs point to no on this one, as research tells us these are more based on genetics than anything else. Check with your mum or sister if they had them, and chances are your experience will be fairly similar.
Rapid weight gain however does contribute to them, so maintaining a healthy and steady weight gain during your pregnancy can help, as well as staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and keeping the skin moisturised with cream or oil.
When do stretch marks usually occur during pregnancy?
Every woman is different and again it will depend on your body, but typically they can start to occur from around 13 weeks or as your bump, hips and breasts begin to change shape. They can also become worse in the third trimester as your bump reaches its largest point with your growing baby inside.
Are there any tips/tricks to manage them?
As mentioned, stretch marks tend to be genetic and despite all the “miracle” creams in the world, some women will still get them and some women don’t.
That said however there are some things you can try to help manage or minimise them:
- Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated from the inside
- Put moisturiser/oil on your skin morning and night – don’t go spending big bucks on “miracle” creams but choose one that is hydrating and works well with your skin. It can become a nice daily ritual to massage your belly and talk/connect with your baby.
- Eat plenty of skin-nourishing foods including salmon, spinach, nuts and foods rich in vitamin c.
- Manage your weight gain by eating a healthy, balanced diet [LINK to maintaining a healthy weight article] and exercising to avoid any rapid weight gain.
Learning to love those lines is easier said than done we know. But just remember that they are a symbol of the incredible thing your body is doing and they will fade over time.
If you’re really concerned speak to your doctor or a dermatologist about options for reducing the scarring, however, many treatments are not safe during pregnancy so always speak with your doctor first.