Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Stretch Marks

By Brandi M. Seals

The words stretch marks strike terror in many people, especially those who are pregnant. It seems everyone has a story about stretch marks that they just have to share with the expectant mother. There are tales of horror where the stretch marks took over the whole body. There are tales of no stretch marks, except maybe one itty bitty one over here. Regardless of how the story goes, there is always a home remedy that someone absolutely swears by or one that did them wrong.

Stretch marks are thin reddish lines that can form on the stomach during pregnancy. You may have had a prior run in with stretch marks during puberty. They seem to like to hang out on the stomach, breast, thighs, and butt. Stretch marks fade with time, but they never quite disappear completely. They fade to a silver color and become less noticeable.

Stretch marks are caused by the weakening and/or tearing of the skin fibers. It can happen when there is a significant weight gain during a short period of time. That describes pregnancy to a t so it is no surprise that pregnant women often end up with stretch marks.

Stretch marks may start to appear late in the first trimester or in beginning of the second. While they are more common during the third trimester, some women start to see them as early as 3 to 4 months into the pregnancy.

Many women swear by cocoa butter or other creams. They believe that by frequently lubricating the skin, the skin fibers will not break down as they begin to stretch. However, while you may enjoy rubbing lotion on your belly, it does not do much in way of preventing the marks.

The number of stretch marks one get depends is directly relational to how elastic her skin is. Elasticity of skin tends to relate to genetic make up. So if your mom had a bunch of stretch marks while she was pregnant with you, chances are you will run into the same problem. Think back to puberty, did you get stretch marks then? The answer to that question may speak a lot to what will happen to your body over the next several months.

The more weight that is gained during pregnancy the more likely you are to have stretch marks. Skin is normally very elastic and capable of stretching; however for some women they may gain pregnancy weight rapidly and that probably will result in stretch marks. Of course women carrying multiple babies at once are more likely to get stretch marks because they are holding in two or more kids.

Some women are just more likely to develop stretch marks. If you have had them with a previous pregnancy, expect to get them again. If you are currently overweight or gain more weight than is recommended, you will probably have stretch marks.

Doctors generally recommend that women gain 25-35 pounds with the pregnancy. Anything over that is really probably more than your skin can handle. In addition, staying hydrated and well nourished has many benefits. One being that generally the better hydrated and well nourished you are the less likely you are to develop serious stretch marks.

If your stretch marks are very bad, you might want to consult with your doctor or a dermatologist. Some topical treatments such as tretinoin cream can help reduce stretch marks. However, these creams must be used after pregnancy because they can cause defects in your unborn baby. Usually topical treatments like this should be used shortly after delivery, before the marks begin to fade. The more time that passes between the delivery and use of cream, the less likely they are to be effective.

If you are breastfeeding, consult with your doctor before using any stretch mark treatments. Some treatments may affect your milk supply or pass through the breast milk.

For women who truly cannot live with the stretch marks, there are a few treatments available. Special laser treatments may improve the skins elasticity and help reduce stretch marks. Plastic surgery is another option. A tummy tuck can help hide some stretch marks and reduce sagging skin.

For women not willing to go that far, keep in mind that those stretch marks came with the birth of your baby. You certainly would not want to forgo the baby just to avoid some marks that will fade over time. So wear them proudly.

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