Understanding Stretch Marks After Pregnancy

What causes stretch marks? Can they be prevented, managed and treated?

Pregnancy is a beautiful experience, but also challenging. Many women go through their fair share of joys and hardships during this unique time as they prepare to bring their little one into the big world. Although motherhood is a special and uplifting experience, many women struggle with an undesired side-effect of pregnancy: stretch marks.

Every woman has different feelings about their bodies after they experience new physical changes in their lives. Along with new responsibilities and demands at home post-delivery, a woman’s body is still recovering from pregnancy and labor. During this period, some women feel insecure about the way they look.

We believe that all women deserve to feel beautiful in their own skin.

While stretch marks may be seen by some women as a reminder of the beautiful experience of pregnancy, other women may see these marks as an unsightly scar.

Whatever you decide to do (or not do) to prevent pregnancy stretch marks, your decision is a valid choice that deserves respect.

What are stretch marks?

When a woman is pregnant, her body is quickly adjusting itself to help her fetus grow. During this time, the pregnant mother tends to gain weight within a short period to accommodate the growth of her child. The hormonal changes that accompany this growth cause the body to stretch and expand rapidly.

Stretch marks are a type of scar that forms on your body. They appear when the skin is torn at a rapid pace. Pregnancy stretch marks may occur when your skin stretches and shrinks quickly, accommodating the weight gained and lost during the pregnancy process.

Stretch marks can also appear in different hues. They can be red, pink, blue, black or purple. The colors may differ depending on where they’re located on your body, when they were created and how they were caused.

Of course, it should be noted that stretch marks are not always related to pregnancy. Stretch marks can also occur during puberty, weight training or during any period when a person gains or loses weight quickly.

How can you prevent stretch marks?

Standing in the mirror, many women inspect old or new stretch marks that may have formed throughout their pregnancy. While some women may feel they are alone in their struggle with stretch marks, it’s essential to understand that this is a common problem many individuals experience.

However, by better understanding the causes of stretch marks, you can do your best to prevent them with the right lifestyle choices and health practices.

The key to preventing pregnancy stretch marks lies in keeping your skin elastic and well-hydrated. This way, your skin stays supple during pregnancy as your body changes rapidly. To do this, a woman must eat nourishing and well-balanced meals that keep her (and her baby) healthy. These habits will support her health and her baby’s health throughout the pregnancy.

Foods that naturally help boost your body’s collagen production are best— such as:

  • Bone broth

  • Fish, shellfish and other seafood

  • Chicken

  • Egg whites

  • Oranges, grapefruits, lemons and other citrus fruits

  • Berries

  • Mango, kiwi and other tropical fruits
  • Garlic

  • Kale and other leafy greens

  • Beans

  • Cashews

  • Tomatoes

  • Bell peppers

In addition, reduce your intake of foods that can boost inflammation and harm natural collagen production such as sugar and refined carbs.

In the hustle and bustle of preparing for your baby’s arrival, it can be easy to forget to drink enough water. However, hydration is crucial to preventing stretch marks. During pregnancy, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

It’s also important to moisturize well throughout your pregnancy to prevent stretch marks while your body is expanding. Focus on moisturizing your stomach, hips, chest, buttocks, arms and thighs. All of these areas have the potential to develop stretch marks. Creams with avocado oil and shea butter work well to keep the skin supple and moisturized. Take the time to moisturize your skin each day to promote your body’s circulation and sustain your skin’s moisture barrier.

Exercise is another great way to minimize pregnancy stretch marks. The exercises you perform don’t have to be rigorous or time-consuming. Many exercises you enjoy will benefit your body and mind during pregnancy. Physical activities will strengthen the muscles around your stomach, thighs and hips.

If you’re not used to exercising regularly, practice walking each day and performing some simple stretches. For more challenging physical activities, try swimming, weight training and running. Of course, if you decide to try an exercise program during your pregnancy, be sure to speak with a trusted physician beforehand.

What are possible treatment options for stretch marks?

As a woman's pregnancy progresses and new stretch marks appear, some individuals may wonder how to remove them.

Nourishing creams, well-balanced diets and regular exercise may prevent some pregnancy stretch marks from appearing. However, not all women can avoid stretch marks entirely. After pregnancy, a woman may continue to struggle with this concern. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to manage these new stretch marks. Some treatments can make stretch marks less noticeable and lighten their pigmentation.

It’s easier to treat newly developed stretch marks than ones that have been there for years. There are creams you can apply to newer stretch marks on your body to become less visible. For pregnancy stretch marks that have been there much longer, you can consult a physician or dermatologist for treatments. A dermatologist may discuss chemical peels, microdermabrasion or laser therapies with you.

Some women may find newly developed stretch marks on their bodies after pregnancy and feel unbothered by them. After her baby is born, a new mother may find a newfound sense of confidence about her body that she didn’t have before. Each woman may have a different opinion about her own body and her stretch marks.

Whatever path you choose after pregnancy, be sure to consult with your well-woman care doctor to learn about your options and get your questions answered. At All About Women in Gainesville and Lake City, we believe that ALL women deserve to feel comfortable and confident in their skin.