Stretch marks during pregnancy - Prevention | Risks Factors | Causes

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Stretch marks during pregnancy are a frequent skin issue. According to various studies, 55% to 90% of pregnant women develop them. 

However, they are not inevitable. In this article, I will explain to you why stretch marks appear, What to expect precisely, and what are the best practices to prevent them in pregnancy. 

Stretch marks during pregnancy - Prevention Guide

I will also mention the best stretch marks treatment options available for you after giving birth. So let's get started right away!

Table of contents

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks are dermal lesions caused by collagen breakdown when the skin stretches quickly due to the rapid growth of the body. In pregnancy, your uterus starts growing because of the embryo development. Then, the skin begins stretching in the abdominal area. This is why most women develop stretch marks on the stomach during pregnancy.

Of course, you can get them elsewhere, like on thighs, for example, because of the rapid weight gain caused by pregnancy.

Stretch Marks aren't harmful to you or your baby. They might be itchy when they first appear but don't worry too much about it. The formal name of stretch marks during pregnancy is striae Gravidarum.

So after this brief overview, let's dive into some more specific questions about stretch marks during pregnancy.

What skincare products to avoid during pregnancy?

What skincare products to avoid during pregnancy?

Some compounds used in anti-stretch marks creams and skincare products can be harmful to the baby during the pregnancy and might cause irreversible damage. These compounds are: 

  1. Retinoids or Retinols 

  2. Tretinoin 

  3. Tetracycline 

  4. Hydroquinone 

  5. Salicylic acid

Therefore, you need to avoid them and make sure to double-check the product's ingredients list to make sure that it doesn't include any of them.

Where do stretch marks appear during pregnancy?

If you are pregnant, stretch marks might appear on the stomach, hips, breasts, and thighs. These are body parts that require the most skin cares to prevent stretch marks in pregnancy.
Women tend to have a more severe form of stretch marks on the stomach.

When do stretch marks appear in pregnancy?

For most women (43% of them), stretch marks start showing up around the 24th week. However, They can appear sooner.
Some women don't notice stretch marks on the lower part of the stomach after the 6th month of pregnancy, even if they formed, and they only remark them once they give birth.

The reason is that when stretch marks form after the last trimester of pregnancy, the belly hides them, and stretch marks only become visible to you once the size of the stomach goes back to normal.

What should you do to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy?

How to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy

Stretch marks will usually show up in the 24th week. However, you may want to start taking care of your skin before that point. You can drastically reduce the risks of developing stretch marks just by doing the doing these simple hints: 

  1. Managing your weight 
  2. Having a balanced diet 
  3. Moisturizing your skin 
  4. Avoiding stress 
  5. Staying active
In the following sections, we will go through each one of those points. So keep reading If you want to know more about how to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.

Weight control

After the first trimester, you should control your weight. It's natural to gain some weight. However, to avoid stretch marks and even more severe issues like high arterial pressure, you have to monitor your weight.

Overweight is closely related to blood pressure problems during pregnancy. And Hypertension in pregnancy is the first cause of premature births. Try to keep weight gain during pregnancy around 2 to 5 pounds maximum per month.

If you struggle to achieve that, talk about it with your doctor to get some help.

References: Braunthal S, Brateanu A. Hypertension in pregnancy

Having a rich and balanced diet.

For your skin to stay healthy, you need to give it the right vitamins and nutrients through the food your eating. The best vitamins to strengthen your skin and preserve it from stretch marks are:

Best vitamin for skin during pregnancy
  1. Vitamin C - sources: Orange, Brocolli, peppers, broccoli Cauliflower
  2. Vitamin E - sources: Olive oil, Almonds 
  3. Vitamin A - sources: Carrots, meat (turkey, beef, duck)

Your diet during pregnancy also requires to include proteins. They play an important role in natural collagen production. Collagen is the main element composing the skin.

References: US national library of medicine Link between nutrition and skin aging

Dietary supplement during pregnancy.

If you are afraid that your nutrition won't be sufficient to supply you with all the vitamins you need to protect your skin from stretch marks and other unwanted skin issues. You may take dietary supplements.

Moisturizing your skin during pregnancy

Keeping your skin moisturized increases its elasticity, Which may reduce the chances of getting stretch marks during pregnancy.

You can utilize natural oils like almond oil to moisturize your skin, or you can get a moisturizing creams. However, make sure that the product you're willing to use, doesn't contain Retinols or Retinoids, which are compounds that can harm the fetus and cause complications in pregnancy.

According to a Harvard Health Publishing, There are also some other things you can do to help you keep your skin moisturized such as:

  • Limiting bath or shower time to 5- 10 min
  • Don't use soap too much and products that contain alcohol 
  • Avoid scratching

References: Harvard Health Publishing: How to moisturize your skin

Avoiding stress

Stress is something you need to avoid during pregnancy. Not only it raises your chances of getting stretch marks, but it can be dangerous for your baby because it can trigger serious complications.

Studies have shown that a high level of stress accelerates skin aging. Which will make you vulnerable to all sorts of skin issues, including stretch marks.

In addition to that, according to investigations in this domain, the following complications are associated with prenatal stress:

  1. Preterm labor 
  2. Preterm birth 
  3. Low baby birth weight 
  4. Pre-eclampsia ( pregnancy hypertension) 
  5. Gestational diabetes

As you can see, these are some serious matters.

Because of the stress in her job, my wife suffered from Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, and preterm birth. 

Fortunately, even if we were scared at the time, our baby is doing fine today despite the fact of his low birth weight. 

So try to avoid unnecessary problems or overthinking about things that are relatively not that important.

References: US national library of medicine. Stress and skin agingEffects of stress on pregnancy PDF

Staying active

Staying active and having a regular physical activity will help you in so many ways in pregnancy.

First, since it's the topic of this article, exercising helps to regulate your skin metabolism, which prevents natural skin collagen production of the body from decreasing and prevent the appearance of stretch marks.

Another interesting point is that staying active during pregnancy help you monitor your weight and prevent excessive weight gain.

You don't need to do an intense workout, just a 30 min walk per day will be more than sufficient.

You can listen to an audiobook or music to make your walk more pleasant.

Exercise will also help giving birth Since it helps the baby to orient in the right direction.

However, keep in mind that experts don't recommend lifting heavy-weights during pregnancy.

References: US national library of medicine Exercise - skin metabolism and aging.

Best products to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy

You may find on the internet a bunch of products and recipes which claim that they can prevent stretch marks during pregnancy with no clear evidence.

According to a research-based on 108 studies, the only two topicals that work in preventing stretch marks and are safe for the baby during pregnancy are: 

  1. Almond oil    
  2. Gotu Kola (Centella Asiatica )

This research also shows that some popular remedies among pregnant women such as coconuts oils, olive oils, and Cocoa butter are not effective in preventing stretch marks.

References: US national library of medicine: McGeorge D, Bayat A, Ud-Din S. Topical management of stretch marks

Almond oil

Almond oil is very efficient in preventing stretch marks and reducing their size.

Overall, based on clinical trials conducted on groups of pregnant women who were applying almond oil daily during pregnancy.

Almond oil may help you reduce the chances of getting stretch marks by 50%, compared to other topicals

However, to get satisfying results, it very important to apply almond oil at least two times a day by massaging areas at risk of the body (belly, hips, breasts, and tights) for at least 15 minutes.

Trials conducted on patients of the studies showed no side effects.

References: US national library of medicine: The effect almond oil on stretch Marks

Gotu Kola (Centella Asiatica )

Centella Asiatica, also called Gotu Kola, tiger grass, or Brahmi, is a herb that grows mostly in Asia. Only recently, searchers and skincare experts have discovered the powerful abilities of this natural herb to protect the skin from stretch marks and other skin issues.

Clinical trials have shown that women using topicals or dietary supplements containing Centella Asiatica lower their chances of getting stretch marks by 89%.

Centella Asiatica dietary supplement - our recommendation Hydralyft

More and more cosmetic brands and companies started using Centella Asiatica extracts in their products. However, those products might contain other compounds that are not safe to use in pregnancy.

Centella Asiatica dietary supplement

Hydralift is a dietary supplement that contains no unsafe compounds for you or your baby. The ingredients of Hydralyft are: 

  1. Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola ) 
  2. Biotin 
  3. Astragalus Membranaceus extract 
  4. Citrus sinensis 
  5. Green Tea Extract 
  6. Rose Hips

These ingredients combined form a perfect blend to protect your skin from stretch marks and other unwanted skin issues such as skin aging, or wrinkles. Hydralift is formulated by skin expert Cecilia Wong and produced by -5th & Glow- which is a reputable brand.

You can grab a -25% off on Hydralift by using our partner link below.

Visit Hydralift Website

References: International Journal of Cosmetic Science

By applying all I have told you in the previous sections of this article, I'm very confident that you have excellent chances of preventing stretch marks during your pregnancy. And even if you did develop them, their aspect would have been worse if you hadn't done anything.

Risks factors

Are stretch marks during pregnancy genetic?

Are stretch marks during pregnancy genetic?

Yes, genetics are a factor that influences the appearance of stretch marks. Genetics include Family history, ethnicity, and age.

Family History

If your close relatives had stretch marks during their pregnancies, you have a higher chance of having them too.

A study published on the American journal of obstetrics and gynecology compared two groups of pregnant women

  1. Group A: with stretch marks family history 
  2. Group B: with no stretch-marks Family history 
The results were that people in group A have 14.9% more chances than people in group B to develop stretch marks.

References: Osman H, Rubeiz N, Tamim, et al. Risk factors for the development of stretch marks

Ethnicity

Studies suggest that stretch marks are more noticeable in persons with dark skin. Also, laser therapy isn't very efficient to treat stretch marks on colored skin person, and specialists recommend to avoid it since it can have some significant side effect.

References: Patel BC, Oakley AM, Stretch Marks (Striae) Updated 2020 May

How Age affects stretch marks in pregnancy

Studies confirmed that the age of pregnant women affect their chances of having stretch marks during pregnancy. According to clinical trials, there is a correlation between the age and risks of developing stretch marks. You have less chances of developing stretch marks as you get older.

Pregnancy line: Linea nigra 

Most women will develop a pregnancy line across the abdomen. Its formal name is Linea nigra. This vertical line is a bit dark, and it's not a stretch mark. The reasons behind it are still unknown, but it will despair naturally a few months after given birth.

What Causes stretch marks during pregnancy

In general, stretch marks or striae are cutaneous lesions that happen when the skin extends above its elasticity limit in a short period. In pregnancy, stretch marks appear because of: 

  1. Uterus growth 
  2. Hormonal changes 
  3. Weight gain

Uterus growth

When a woman gets pregnant, her uterus starts expending to give enough space for the baby gestation. Around the 2Oth week, your uterus starts applying pressure on your abdominal wall. As a result, the skin on the stomach begins stretching. You can check out this video of the baby gestation to see the different phases of the fetus's growth and how it will change the shape of your body.

Hormones

In addition to changes in your body shape, hormonal changes are also a cause of the appearance of stretch marks. Researches tend to point the fact that hormonal changes during pregnancy have an influence on the collagen synthesis in the skin, which may diminish the elasticity of the skin and raise risks related to the development of stretch marks.

Weight Gain

Gaining weight in a short period favors the appearance of stretch marks. Studies have proved that after the second month of pregnancy, women have a bigger appetite. This situation is natural. Remember, you are feeding for two persons. But in some cases, it may lead to overeating, which might cause a quick weight gain.

References: Clark M, Ogden J. The consequence of pregnancy on eating behavior


Stretch marks treatments

In case you had developed stretch marks during pregnancy, don't worry. There are serval treatments you can try after given birth. Most stretch marks treatments are unsafe for the baby and have unpleasant side effects. For this reason, you should wait a few months after giving birth before you start a treatment.

Stretch marks treatments that give the best result are: 

  1. Microneedling Sessions 
  2. Microdermabrasion 
  3. Laser Therapy 
  4. Cosmetic surgery

You need to know that treatments are not covered by most medical insurance since they are considered cosmetic procedures.

Bottom line

Stretch marks are a very commons skin problem during pregnancy.

However, they are not inevitable. You can prevent stretch marks by applying basic skin care practices. 

The best bio oil for stretch marks, according to studies, is almond oil. However, for it to be efficient, you need to apply it by massaging the areas of the body most exposed to stretch marks the belly, hips, tights. 

Clinical trials show that supplements and creams that includes Centella Asiatica are also very efficient in preventing stretch marks. However, you need to check the ingredients list of those to make sure it doesn't contain a compound that could be harmful to the fetus development.

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